Toy library on brink of closure

Alex Henderson, 8, checks out one of the toys alongside North Otago Toy Library president Sarah...
Alex Henderson, 8, checks out one of the toys alongside North Otago Toy Library president Sarah Maindonald. PHOTO: WYATT RYDER
The North Otago Toy Library has about two months before it will be forced to close.

Its inability to pay rent or get volunteers is a situation president Sarah Maindonald did not mince words about, saying she would accept "anything to keep the doors open".

The library, in Thames St, is run by a committee of eight volunteers. They are desperately trying to secure grant money, which is its main source of funding.

Over the last year the well of grant money had dried up, Ms Maindonald said.

"We’ve got money to pay two months rent, we’ve got money to pay a couple weeks of wages and that’s it."

The problem arose from the nature of the grants.

Grants offering funding for one-time purchases or projects, such as buying toys, were more accessible, but it was "really hard" to get one that paid ongoing costs.

One such grant was how they were able to afford to hire a single staff member, but the funding would be finished soon, Ms Maindonald said.

That person was the only other person who knew how to operate the computer systems aside from her, and Ms Maindonald could not work at the library throughout the week.

The library had posted on Facebook asking for volunteers, and 15 people expressed interest. But none had followed through.

One of the committee members was making grant applications at present, but completing the lengthy process was another area where it lacked manpower.

The library worked on a paid membership system, and had more than 50 members. About half of those were parents or caregivers who used the service regularly.

There were many grandparents who liked having toys for when the grandchildren visited, but did not want to buy and store them for those uncommon occasions.

It also kept plastic waste out of the environment when the children grew out of it, she said.

Although the membership was paid, it barely made enough to cover the wage of a part-time worker and was not close to meeting rent.

"It would be nice to see it stay open, but I just don’t know how that would work."

She was considering asking local businesses to sponsor the library, but was struggling to work out the logistics and how to approach people on the matter.

The committee did hold fundraisers, but they did not bring in enough money and recently they had not gone very well, she said.

She had been in contact with the Toy Library Federation of New Zealand to see if there was any emergency funding it was eligible for.

The list of tasks it needed help with was long and volunteers to work the counter were the top priority, but it was also after anyone who could help apply for grants, manage social media, repair toys, help with accounts, catalogue the toys and more.

She was willing to change the opening days if it meant getting volunteers who were available.