Bringing stuff in
Reading Hackspace is a peer-run community. Over the years we have amassed a wide range of tools and materials, many of which are generous donations. However, that same generosity can sometimes lead to problems - we are limited for space, have little by way of governance to manage it, and the best intentions can result in the excessive accumulation of stuff, making it hard for members to find a place to work and keep the space clean.
What follows on this page is guidance. It has no formal standing, and there is no associated disciplinary procedure. Instead it is intended to represent a basic set of principles, which people can follow to ensure that they are acting in the group's best interests.
Before bringing something to rLab, we would be grateful if you would consider the following questions, and act in accordance with the recommendations:
Is your thing (a) a tool, (b) some stock material, (c) a project or personal belonging, or (d) a broken item?
- by a tool, we mean a tool that works that you are donating / lending for other members to use (otherwise it is either a broken item or personal belonging);
- by materials, we mean materials that you are happy to donate with no expectation of return. nb. if they are for your use alone, then they are part of a project / are your personal belongings;
- by project we mean something that you are intending to work on and leave behind in the space while you're working on it;
- just because something is a broken item, it does not mean that we cannot make use if it but please read the guidance below before bringing it in
We love tools. You only have to look around the place to see that we have tools everywhere, quite literally stuffed into every nook and cranny. Big tools, small tools, new tools, but mostly old tools.
Are you confident that a group of people will want to use it? Is there space for it, or will something else have to make way?
There are so many different types of tool in the Hackspace - some mainstream hacking tools, some really quite niche. Before we take something on, we need to assess how many people will be interested in using it. Please do not be offended if we decline your offer - space is rather limited and we need to make some hard choices about how best to use it.
Do we already have one?
Please ensure that you have checked whether we already have one of these tools by asking a relevant room leader. There have been many attempts in the past to create an inventory of tools, but it requires a lot of effort to itemise everything and keep it up to date, so we don't have one. So before bringing it in, please establish whether we already have one.
Is it better than the one that we have?
Just because we already have one, it does not mean that we do not either want another one, or would like to upgrade to a better or more modern tool if available. Please check with a room leader so that they can advise on whether it would obviously be of benefit to members, or whether to consult via our mailing list.
Is this a donation, or are you expecting it to be returned to you at some point?
Long-term loans are OK, but please recognise that whilst we will collectively try to maintain a tool and prevent it from becoming damaged, we cannot make any guarantees about being able to return it in the condition that you left it in. Similarly, we cannot make any commitments to keep it for a minimum period of time, and may at some point ask if you could take it back. If you are leaving it at rLab as a long-term loan, please label it clearly as such, ideally with contact details. Please bear in mind that if you provide a piece of equipment on long-term loan, and then lose contact with the Hackspace, you may effectively be lumbering us with an item that will occupy valuable space, but may in future not best serve the group. We will make a reasonable effort to contact you before taking steps that affect the thing that you have lent, but if you lend us something, and then become uncontactable, your tool may be dealt with according to the whims of the future members of the group.
Could someone accidentally harm / hospitalise themself / someone else with it?
Some of our most useful tools are also capable of hurting someone if mis-used. We therefore need to take appropriate measures to ensure that the risk is managed appropriately. Please be clear about the known risks when consulting the room leaders / membership. If PPE is required to use the tool, please arrange this with the relevant room leader (or please make it appear in close proximity to the tool).
Are you willing to train people to use it / train a trainer?
Some of the best tools need training to use - especially if they pose a risk. We are likely to be able to make far better use of the tool, and take better care of it, if you are able to offer training when you donate/loan it to us. Not a show-stopper, but something that should be taken into account.
Does it have a manual?
Please bring it in so that it can be stored with the tool. If in electronic form, it would be great if you could print it out as we rarely have any paper.
Do you want to store it at rLab, retain ownership of it, and would prefer people not to use it?
We are not a storage company.
There are a lot of materials at rLab - some are up for grabs for use in your projects, some are for sale, and some belong to members. This section deals with donations of materials for use by members. Please note: by donation we mean that there is no expectation of return, financial or otherwise.
Is the material of use to the group?
Please only bring in materials that you are confident that the group will use. We are often offered surplus materials - and are grateful for offers - but we need to manage how the space is used, and may politely decline offers if we cannot justify the storage space. The best people to discuss this with are the room leaders, as they have the best understanding of the available space and the best interests of the people who use the different rooms. With space at a premium we have to set the bar quite high, and will tend not to accept more speculative offers.
Does the material pose a risk / have special storage requirements?
If you know the material poses a risk, or has special storage requirements, please raise these with the room leader / group when discussing whether to bring them in.
Do we already have as much as we need?
In each of our rooms we have storage space allocated for materials. If you can see that we are running low on a particular item, please feel free to donate more of the same, up to the point where it fills the allotted space.
Do you expect some sort of return?
If the materials are of value, we ask members to make an appropriate donation to the Hackspace in return for use of the materials. However we do not, at present, have a means of controlling stock / ensuring payment for other people's materials.
We are not a shop.
Personal materials should be labelled and treated like personal belongings. Otherwise they are liable to be assumed shared and used. Consider whether the quantity of material stored is unreasonable (it's useful to consider what would happen if everyone who used that room brought that same quantity in)- if it's significantly more than required for the immediate needs of your project, either donate part of the stock to the space, or move it elsewhere.
Projects and personal belongings
We recognise that people travel to rLab by different means of transport, and cannot easily cart their projects and tools back and forth for every visit. We also recognise that many projects take more than one visit to complete, and there is sometimes a need to leave your work in situ. However this needs to be done in a way that as far as possible respects the wishes of other members to use the limited space available, and allows for the easy cleaning of the rooms.
Anything that you leave at the space remains your responsibility
Whilst we have access control, cameras and are confident that all of our members are excellent people, as a group we cannot assume any responsibility for your personal possessions - if you leave anything at the space, you do so entirely at your own risk. There is some storage space available in the cupboard in the main room, and we also have some lockers outside the downstairs toilets. Please use them.
Generally, it is a good idea to label your possessions so that people do not mistake them for their own.
Please consider the impact that you are having on other members
Please label any active projects that you leave in the space, with a card detailing who it belongs to, and the expected duration of the project. If you leave your work out / possessions around, it reduces the amount of space available for other members, do not be offended if you return and discover that it has been moved to make room. If you leave it there for a long time, you may discover that someone has inadvertently mistaken it for stock materials, rubbish (people have different perspectives) and have moved it accordingly.
If some work that you left out poses a risk to other members, please take steps to alert people to the risk.
Please only bring and store materials that you are about to use - we have limited storage space and cannot accommodate requests for long-term storage of bulky items.
Longer term projects
If you are about to embark on a project or piece of work that may take some time, please consult the group as a whole before commencing and work with them to find a way forward that works for everyone. When consulting, be clear about how long you expect the work to take, when you will be doing it (especially if the work will have an impact on others) and how you will minimise the disruption to other users. Once started, keep the community abreast of progress. If it is a very long term project, appears to have stalled, or there is an alternative pressing need for the space, be ready to enter into constructive dialogue about the best use of the space.
Before you bring a broken item into the space - a tool or otherwise - please ensure that you, or someone in the group, has a clear plan for fixing it. There is a distinction to be drawn between someone offering advice on how something might be fixed, and someone who is willing to fix it. Please clearly label the item with the fault so that it does not pose a danger to other people. Until it is fixed, please treat it in the same way the you would treat a project, and once fixed either establish it as a tool or as your personal belongings.