An online shop featuring library-themed clothes is launching thanks to a Kickstarter fundraiser that was able to meet its target at the end of last week. The shop, Public Libraries Apparel, is pledging 20% of its profits every month to public libraries in the UK.
The launch of the venture was secured after 56 backers pledged £2,465 in total, enough for the shop to get up and running. The project is the brainchild of Lottie Begg (pictured), a public librarian at Newport Library on the Isle of Wight, with a passion for design, who found herself at home during the lockdown looking for a novel way to raise funds for her workplace.
“After years of creating material for my library, the idea of designing apparel that promoted the library service came to me," she said. "I was off work and my colleagues and I were talking online about how worried we were about our most vulnerable patrons. There wasn't much we could do. I've always been interested in design, so my first idea was to make posters celebrating the role of libraries, which then had me thinking 'well that could work well on a T-shirt and we could sell them locally to raise funds'. It grew from there really. I thought, 'Why not see if anyone else wants to buy them and help raise funds for other libraries as well'."
Begg's retro-inspired designs are intended to promote life-long learning, community and freedom from censorship, as well as to raise awareness and money for under-funded public libraries in the UK. Currently several T-shirts in unisex sizing are still available for pre-order, which will be delivered to customers this December. One of the products–all part of the shop's limited edition "1984" T-shirt collection, where only 50 of each unique design is available–features a screen print on organic natural recycled cotton urging "Protect your freedom" and "Use your library".
"Drawing inspiration from my working-class background and public library architecture in the UK, Public Library Apparel’s designs have a retro feel that is a nod to the golden years of public libraries and vintage book cover art," said Begg. "The library I work in has quite an urban design. I wanted the style of the prints to reflect a run-down, well-used public library (also reflected in the company logo with the 'L' that's fallen) attracting people because they're cool T-shirts in the first place but with a story behind it."
Public Library Apparel will showcase different elements of public library services and, beyond fulfilling orders derived from the original Kickstarter, Begg has ambitions to expand the range.
"In early December we plan to launch new T-shirt and tote bag designs. And early next year we will also expand into long-sleeve tops and caps," she said. "We are playing it by ear but I'd love to have a full brand of unisex clothing, which is really comfy and stylish. Hopefully that will be on the drawing board."
As part of pledging 20% of profits every month to public libraries in the UK, the model for Public Libraries Apparel involves asking customers and visitors of the website to nominate their own local library service as beneficiaries where additional funds are particularly needed. To date five libraries have been nominated.
"I am so excited to see a tangible difference to the libraries we donate to," said Begg. "It’s no secret public services have been cut back to the bone the past decade under austerity measures, and the knock on effect of other services being scrapped all together has meant public libraries are trying to fill the void. The most vulnerable members of our society use public libraries for a number of reasons so its vital funding and awareness grows."
She added: "We shouldn't have to self-fund ... As I see it though, at the moment the government is providing the bare minimum; we can either take it or try to be proactive. I definitely support anything that would give libraries more central funding from the government. It's just not the case at the moment, so I am just doing what I can to help."
The shop's website, where products are available to buy supporting public libraries, can be found at www.publiclibraryapparel.com.