Start a nappy library
Before you jump into setting up, there are a few important things to consider:
You will need public liability insurance to cover you for any damages resulting from your library/activities. For example, a baby choking on a popper, someone tripping over your nappies at a demo or hurting themselves on your property when returning nappies. The chances of this happening are very slim but without insurance you are personally liable if anyone tries to sue you/the library, which can be thousands even if you win. Insurance starts at around £70 a year depending on your library’s set-up, which is a lot when first starting out but the costs of fighting a claim in court will be a lot more.
You must take steps to minimise the risks e.g. include a disclaimer as part of your terms and conditions (although they don't tend to stand up in court); make sure you wash nappies at 60 degrees C to ensure they are clean when they come back in and check them over carefully before and after each loan out to minimise the risk of any part coming loose but insurance is still needed in case something goes wrong despite your best efforts.
We do not recommend any particular insurer or broker but the following companies are familiar with how nappy libraries work:
DSC Insurance Services
You will also need to check your home and contents insurance policy if you intend to run from home as having people to your home could invalidate your home and contents insurance. Some insurance companies will charge an additional premium, others may just refuse to allow it so you'll need to check. If renting, you will also need permission from the landlord.
If you will be buying and selling as the library or charging for hire, you need to speak to HMRC about the tax implications. You may need to register as a sole trader or as a CIC. Everyone tends to need to do something different as we all run differently, so ensure you get what they say in writing for your records and check with them again if you change any aspect of how you operate.
Make sure you keep accurate records in a spreadsheet of ANY library-related income and outgoings regardless of the tax position of your library. Even if you charge for hire to help cover costs, you need to be aware that running a library WILL cost you money, especially to start up. Please do not start a library without considering whether you have the time, energy and finances to commit to it. Libraries starting up and then shutting down 6 months later really damage our relationships with retailers and manufacturers. Sometimes a library will need to shut down for genuine reasons and, in that event, we have guidelines as to how to shut the library down properly. Ideally, the library can be passed to someone else though, and if you've set it up as guided, the hand-over should be quite smooth.
Retailers and manufacturers now only support well-established libraries, after being stung by people pretending to set up libraries to try and get free nappies. Libraries in the UK Nappy Network do NOT ask for free nappies. We ask for information for clients only. You will need to establish your library yourself. Most retailers have schemes to support the libraries. Some give a code that you can share with clients and you get points when the code is used, then you can swap the points for nappies. Others offer a discount to the library for buying stock.
It is important to note that many libraries struggle to break even and they certainly do not make any kind of profit, so you will be putting your own funds in to make your library successful and/or you will need to dedicate time to fundraising. Most of us see it as off-setting our own landfill but there is a limit as to how much one can spend. The larger libraries can cost up to £1,000 a year to run, which is often borne by the volunteers although it is possible to run only from donations/grants/local authority support depending on your local area and how much effort you can put into it.
It is important that the libraries as a whole maintain a professional image. Please spell check and grammar check everything that you do through the library including Facebook page posts. It can sometimes seem unimportant but it makes a HUGE difference to how we are perceived as a whole. We will be taken a lot more seriously if we just take the time to use capital letters, spell check and use punctuation.
Once you have decided whether to proceed further:
Step 1 - Check your local area for libraries or council schemes already in place. If there are, approach them and ask what they do, do they need or want help etc. Explain what you would like to do and why you want to help. It will be a LOT cheaper and easier for you to set up as a branch of a current library than to go it alone. You will also have more success with grant applications and local councils as a joint collaboration.
If there is nothing in your area, move to Step 2...
Step 2 – Decide what you will be called and how you will run (the majority of libraries are non-profit, with volunteers covering most costs themselves. If you chose to charge for hire you will need to speak to HMRC as there will be tax implications to consider - get what they say in writing for future reference). Start a library Facebook page (not a group, though you can have a group too. Retailers and admin cannot get a good feel for your activity levels from a group which puts you at a disadvantage with regards to the level of support you are offered.). This will also give you a free way to advertise your library to local parents. Then get liking all the cloth nappy companies and other libraries and posting a hello on their wall so their likers can find you. You may wish to start a Twitter account and or a website too. Although you can do a simple website very cheaply or for free, a more professional-looking site may have on-going running costs so you need to bear this in mind if you choose to have one.
Step 3 – To be added to the nappy libraries’ Facebook group, which contains a wealth of information and friendly support, fill in the following details and email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Area covered: (Put your county and closest big town or city too, ideally)
Library Facebook page: (actual link please, not just the page name)
Postal loans available? (Yes/No):
People involved in this library (put Facebook name in brackets if different to real life name please!):
Date started/Established (or "Not Active Yet" if applicable):
Terms of nappy loan/hire:
Profit or non-profit/charity:
Library Address (or just postcode for pin location):
Contact phone number for admin:
You don't have to have all the details initially; we can update as you progress but we need to know which areas are whom and we must have a contact phone number for you before we can add you to the group.
Only the top 7 are put on the public map, the rest can only be seen by the other libraries and retailers. Admin MUST have a contact number for you. If you don't want it on the document, that's fine but we must have a non-Internet way to contact you.
There are now some strict rules that must be followed if you are to remain in the network group. If you are not comfortable with them, please let us know. We can still add you to the map but you will not have the benefits that come from being in the group.
Step 4 - Once in the Facebook network group, read through all the files. There is a lot of useful information in there and most FAQ are answered.
Step 5 - Gen up on your knowledge! This is really important. Retailers and manufacturers HATE libraries giving out bad information. Read plenty of groups on Facebook, ask us all questions. Read through retailer websites, many have extensive information sections. Make sure you know what you are talking about and the types of nappies available out there as well as how to wash and care for nappies (look through our files!) If you are unsure about something, ASK another library or in the group, we all get stumped sometimes.
Step 6 - Approach your local children's centres. Ask them if you can take in a few demo nappies and give talks at ante-natal classes etc. as a "knowledgeable parent" (negates the need for a DBS check) They might be willing to support you financially if you are lucky - Waste Management is the place to ask at the local council as well as the person in charge of children’s services. Many areas have more than one children’s centre so start with contacting the one closest to you, then if no luck move onto the next and so on. It often takes them a long time to get back to you so if no response do try again. Some local NCT trusts can be very helpful if you join forces with them too. See appendix 1 for example emails. NCT libraries have their own insurance and rules for how they operate and each area is different.
Also approach your local council if you haven't already as they may be interested in joining forces and supporting you financially too. Some councils have been very generous, others not so much! Make sure to keep accurate figures of the numbers of times your kits have been loaned out and how many people you have converted. You can then convert these figures into the amount of landfill costs you have saved your council, which is more likely to get them on board.
Step 7 - Most nappy companies are in the Facebook group now and those who are not know about the libraries. We DO NOT ask for freebies EVER! If a retailer wants to, they will offer you nappies. To start with, post in the network group asking about leaflets to give out with kits or email or phone retailers if you want their specific leaflets. Quite a few offer special discount codes for your clients once you are established. If you email or message a retailer, make sure to mention your Facebook page and library number so they can go and have a look how active you are. The more active your page is, the more likely they will support you. Give them regular feedback from your clients and it is possible they will support you more over time too.
Step 8 - Make yourself a leaflet/poster, A5 size is ideal (see files for examples of others, or ask in the group) and ask if you can put them in GP surgeries, preschools/nurseries’ windows, post offices, shops’ ads boards, put one in your back window of your car, ask friends to do the same, put them in the Children's Centres either as a pile of leaflets or ask if you can put one up as a poster, local soft play centres etc. Anywhere local that you can think of. It can’t hurt to ask.
Hello (add who you are writing to, use Dear if letter),
I am starting up a non-profit cloth nappy library to cover (add area to be covered and the library’s name) and I wondered if this would be something you are interested in. There is currently a large network of non-profit nappy libraries expanding around the UK (add the link to the map here so they can see that your area needs one and how popular they are in other places) and they are a great way for people to try out cloth nappies and get a good fit before they buy their own.
As the library is non-profit, any donations go back into the library, helping it expand and providing nappies for others to trial. I intend to be available to do demos for ante-natal classes and can bring the nappies for other groups to look at too (such as sling meets, breastfeeding groups, support groups etc.).
You probably know that cloth nappies are better for the environment and parents’ pockets than disposables, but these days they are as easy to use as disposables - no more pins and plastic pants! They are really simple and you can use cloth from birth to potty training for as little as £50, which is a HUGE saving. Since cost is a big factor in having a baby, I am hoping that my library can help people save money whilst also helping them significantly reduce landfill.
If this is something you could support me with, I would be very grateful. Initial funds are currently being covered just by me and the odd donation of unwanted nappies. I'd be interested in meeting to discuss how we could benefit each other.
Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing from you,
Nappy library name
Optional - address, phone number (including a phone number, landline if possible, makes you look more professional)