When I started The North East Sling Library in July 2011 I had no idea how big it was going to become, or how much time it would take it. I did it because I saw a need. There were no regular local sling meets, nowhere to find out information other than high street shops. I naively thought it would take a few hours of my time. How I was wrong! How little I knew. The library has grown so big and had over 60 slings and carriers and I spend approximately 10-15 hours a week on library business, even when the library sessions are not running that week.
Last March I had 35 carriers in the library, I had 26 on loan to 20 different families. I had just completed my Trageschule UK foundation course, oh and yes I was heavily pregnant and off work with threatened premature labour. How things have changed! This March we have over 60 slings, I have made 63 loans to 54 different families, and the bump is now a very active 11 month old.
Although there is no requirement for training, sling libraries that take a fee, even if they make no income, must make a tax return and should have public liability insurance as a bare minimum. The law also means that you need to meet The Sale of Goods Act 1979 & Supply of Goods & Services Act 1982, and The Consumer Protection Act 1987. No set of terms and conditions, or waivers, remove the need to meet these criteria. So it is important to remember this when thinking about setting up a library.
March has been unbelievably busy for me. Here is a little diary of my life as a sling librarian.
Sunday 3rd March
I exhibited at my second NCT Nearly New Sale. Due to restrictions on NCT sling activities I needed to show them my insurance documents. I offered on the day hire, standard hires and was primarily there to offer sling advice and tips. I was even roped in to checking the slings for sale. I had the sad job of removing a counterfeit ergo, then explaining to the seller what I had done and why. Much happier with the response I got at this sale and people genuinely seem interested.
Wednesday 6th March
From no local regular sling meets a year ago there is now a vibrant Newcastle sling meet and it is held twice a month, today was the Wednesday meet. Held at a soft play centre we had 46 small people plus their accompanying adults this month. I take my sling library and Slings North of Tyne Library go too. This month we had 3 consultants and a peer supporter there and we never stopped for the 2 hours the meet runs. I did manage to grab one of their delicious cakes and a mouthful of tea. When I got home I was very happy that both boys decided to have long naps. It meant I could sort out slings and paperwork.
Saturday 9th March
When I started the library I originally only ran 2 sessions a week (originally Monday’s, then Wednesday mornings when my teaching timetable changed) but not everyone who wants to come to the library can come in the week. I trialed extending how long I opened for on a Wednesday but that just left me with two very tired children. So in an attempt to help more people I started monthly Saturday sling sessions. Today was the day. Probably the quietest Saturday we have had, but still a visit from a 7 day old squishy and some old and new faces, plus the obligatory cake, made it a successful afternoon.
Sunday 10th March
Mother’s Day! Breakfast in bed but no real lie in for me. 10 am and I have a private consultation booked with a gorgeous 8 week old and her Mummy and Daddy. I have dispatched the husband and my eldest to go swimming. Library sessions are fun but I like 1:1 as it allows me to get to know the parents and work to find the best sling for them. In this case they opted for the Hoppediz Bondolino although daddy rocked Girasol #6 in a front wrap cross carry, the Bondolino just a little more practical for the dog walk. Right time for lunch, blast need to make that myself.
Monday 11th March
Today a trip to Ikea and Staples to buy supplies for the weekend. Spent the evening updating records with hires from Saturday and placing a stock order. Hope my credit card doesn’t mind the excess baggage. It is amazing how much of your own money gets swallowed up when running a library. It definitely doesn’t make me rich.
Wednesday 13th March
Sling library day and a busy one. I always walk the dogs and then set up. Normally Henry not allowed to watch the TV but it does come in useful when I need to set up. Thankfully Isaac fell asleep on the dog walk. Right 9.30am and doors open. My lovely helpers are the first to arrive – bearing cake – can you spot a theme with library sessions? First visitors arrive at 10 am, including a 38week bump who wants to find out where to start.
Today’s session was a special one as we had a visit from a presenter from a local radio station, Metro Radio, who came to interview me. I am exhibiting at The North East Baby and Toddler Show on Saturday and they want to feature me. Karen presents the Saturday breakfast show and is 22 weeks pregnant. She is running a feature called ‘Baby Diaries’, my interview and details of the library are going to feature. Eeek. Got to find a photo and write a biography to be put on their website, will do that tonight.
Library got more exciting with the arrival of slings from Slumber Roo and Hana Baby Wrap. I have never sold slings but both companies are giving me the chance to stock slings to sell on Saturday.
12.30pm library closes, phew. Shattered. Time for lunch. Isaac goes to sleep but Henry doesn’t. I need to sort slings for Saturday but happily Henry takes himself to play “tractors”. He is quiet, pop my head in and he has them all lined up in a row.
By about 3pm finally packed away and sorted. Remember I have to renew my insurance so ring insurers and do that. Renew my British Association of Babywearing Instructors membership too. Will sort admin tonight, need to work on sale prices too! It is getting a little real now but two teaching days to complete first.
Saturday 16th March
Alarm goes off, it is 6am! The alarm is never set on a weekend but it is today. I have 30 minutes to eat breakfast and get me and Isaac dressed. We need to leave at 6.30 to drive to show venue and set up. My mum has come to stay to look after Henry as hubby has to work. She helped me load car last night. Slightly weird to hear myself on the radio in the 7am headlines as I drive to venue (apparently it was repeated every hour till 12 but hey I was too busy to listen by then). Arrive at the venue at 7.15 and spend next 25 minutes unloading and taking boxes, bags, hanging rail and mannequin up to show room. I have the prime spot next too buggy park, stand 1, as organisers want to limit the number of buggies and encourage the use of the on the sling hire option. It takes me an hour or so to set up. Isaac spends time sitting having his breakfast. Proud of how good it looks when finished. I know it won’t look as neat in a few hours.
10am event opens. Let the madness begin. So glad to see Carrie of Slings North of Tyne Library arrive, I’m struggling to cope already. See so many slings and carriers, only ever seen more in one place at the Natural Mamas Big Camp. Stall is busy all day but at 12 I have to abandon Carrie, I need to grab a sandwich, feed Isaac and I am due on stage at 12.20 to demo. Glad my day job is teaching, you can’t hold a microphone and demo. Teacher voice it is, project, project, project. Demo completed I run down to stand and let Carrie go get her lunch. Hires continue and so do sales! It is an amazing feeling spreading the sling love to so many.
4.30pm finally can stop, show closed and time to pack up the stand. Chuffed to bits with how the day has gone but even more excited by the prospect of a nice glass of white wine and putting my feet up. I will need to sort slings and tot up sales etc but that can wait. I need to relax now. 8pm and to bed I go.
My mad March is beginning to draw to a close but still only half way through. I know I will have forgotten things too from the diary. I bet there isn’t a day goes by without me responding to an email enquiry, Facebook comment or phone call. Postal hires carry on and there are countless trips to the post office and the sorting office too. I also have planned for the rest of March;
- A visit to a local playgroup
- Ring Sling Master Class
- 2 private consultations
- And the library drop in session on 27th March
Will April bring me a rest? I don’t think so, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. While I am busy, that means more carried babies and that has to be a good thing, doesn’t it? It means I can help more parents to “carry their babies big and small”.