About

About

  • Yarra Ranges Community Toy Libraries is an independent community-run non-profit that allows our members to borrow from a large collection of toys from our two locations at Mount Evelyn and Montrose, VIC. We have over 2000 toys, puzzles and games in our collection, ranging in suitability from birth to teenage years and beyond.

  • Members join by paying an annual fee and committing to attend 4 volunteer sessions per year to help us open our borrowing sessions. Non-duty memberships are also available for an additional $100 a year. Members may borrow either 4 or 8 toys at a time, depending on their membership level.

  • Our members save thousands of dollars per year by borrowing instead of buying toys for their kids (AND we can track how much you’ve saved – ask us to tell you how much you’ve borrowed the next time you’re in!

  • We organise our toys into a range of categories such as Role Play, Costumes, Transportation, Construction, Baby and Toddler, Large Toys and Ride-ons, Games, Puzzles, Sensory and Early Primary. Children are invited to borrow from a range of categories to extend their play experiences and develop a range of skills from gross and fine motor skills, to scientific exploration, literacy, logic, and social skills. Research shows that children learn best while playing, and we believe that having access to such a wide range of play experiences has benefits for years to come!

  • Toy libraries help reduce landfill usage in their communities by sharing many toys amongst families, instead of having everyone buy their own. We prioritise toys that are sturdy and will last for years! Plus, many families who might struggle to afford more expensive toys can still benefit from them by borrowing from the toy library. Our volunteer member model also means that members feel committed to the toy library project as a whole – which research shows can reduce isolation, build connections between families and contribute to mental wellbeing across the community. Join us and find out what all the buzz is about!

  • Yarra Ranges Community Toy Libraries is an independent community-run non-profit that allows our members to borrow from a large collection of toys from our two locations at Mount Evelyn and Montrose, VIC. We have over 2000 toys, puzzles and games in our collection, ranging in suitability from birth to teenage years and beyond.
  • Members join by paying an annual fee and committing to attend 4 volunteer sessions per year to help us open our borrowing sessions. Non-duty memberships are also available for an additional $100a year. Members may borrow either 4 or 8 toys at a time, depending on their membership level.
  • Our members save thousands of dollars per year by borrowing instead of buying toys for their kids (AND we can track how much you’ve saved – ask us to tell you how much you’ve borrowed the next time you’re in!
  • We organise our toys into a range of categories such as Role Play, Costumes, Transportation, Construction, Baby and Toddler, Large Toys and Ride-ons, Games, Puzzles, Sensory and Early Primary. Children are invited to borrow from a range of categories to extend their play experiences and develop a range of skills from gross and fine motor skills, to scientific exploration, literacy, logic, and social skills. Research shows that children learn best while playing, and we believe that having access to such a wide range of play experiences has benefits for years to come!
  • Toy libraries help reduce landfill usage in their communities by sharing many toys amongst families, instead of having everyone buy their own. We prioritise toys that are sturdy and will last for years! Plus, many families who might struggle to afford more expensive toys can still benefit from them by borrowing from the toy library. Our volunteer member model also means that members feel committed to the toy library project as a whole – which research shows can reduce isolation, build connections between families and contribute to mental wellbeing across the community. Join us and find out what all the buzz is about!

Our History

Our toy library was founded as “Lilydale Toy Library” at Morrison House in 1978. From the original 8 members it grew steadily until by 1986 it was operating out of 4 satellite locations with over 800 toys. In 1987, the toy library moved to its current home at the Mount Evelyn Hall on Birmingham Rd, prompting the closure of the three smaller satellite sites at Mooroolbark, Seville and Wonga Park. In 2004, we changed our name to Mount Evelyn Community Toy Library. Over the next few years the toy library grew to around 80 members, gaining an extra room at the Mt Evelyn Hall and growing its collection of toys, with 3 hours of open sessions per week.

The COVID years hit us hard, with membership plummeting to the lowest levels in 15 years and extended closures forcing families to keep toys for longer periods which resulted in much higher rates of broken pieces and missing toys. But thanks to a huge effort by our volunteer committee, community donations, and grant funding from Yarra Ranges Council, Bendigo Bank, Max Brown Real Estate (Montrose) and the State Government, we have been able to rebuild, coming back stronger than ever!

In April 2023, after a multi-year planning and start-up phase, we opened our second site in the former Montrose maternal child health building, allowing us to expand our toy collection and our opening hours. This prompted us to change our name again to Yarra Ranges Community Toy Libraries. In December 2023, we inherited the collection of toys from Yarra Glen Toy Library which had sadly closed permanently due to lack of volunteers in the post-lockdown years. In February 2024, we brought on our first paid coordinator, which has allowed us to further extend our opening hours, including weekly Stay and Play sessions at Mt Evelyn and staying open during school holidays at Montrose.

Today, Yarra Ranges Community Toy Libraries has two locations in Mt Evelyn and Montrose. We are open for 10 hours a week, across 5 different sessions, with over 100 members, and over 2000 toys to borrow!

Why join our toy library?

Why join our toy library?

  • Two Locations

    Montrose Toy Library and Mount Evelyn Toy Library on the same membership

  • Save Money

    Our members save over $1000 on average per year by borrowing instead of buying toys

  • 1000s of high quality toys

    Choose from thousands of high quality toys and games suitable for kids from birth to teenage years and beyond

  • Stages of development

    Our toys cover physical development, fine motor development, role play, and imaginative play, science and logic, puzzles, games & more

  • Sustainability

    Help reduce landfill use in our community and reduce clutter in your home

  • Community

    Be part of a thriving community group dedicated to child development & play – a great way for local parents to connect!

FAQs

Yes!   We operate as one toy library with two locations.  Toys can be borrowed and/or returned to either branch.  You can also do your nominated volunteering at either branch.

Yes, your volunteer duty can be completed at either Mt Evelyn or Montrose. To nominate yourself for your duty log in to your member portal and go to the calendars to choose a suitable session.

Many people assume that we are funded by the government, the same as the public book libraries.  However, we are not affiliated with any government and do not receive any core funding from anywhere.  We are a community-run non-profit that is operated solely by our member volunteers.   In addition to the usual running costs like rent and electricity, we have no core funding to pay for new toys, replace old and broken toys, pay for marketing, flyers or even cleaning supplies!   Your member fees are necessary to keep us operating, but we try to keep them as low as possible.

No!   We are an independent community non-profit that is not affiliated with any level of government.   We do not receive any core funding from anywhere.   Both of our toy libraries are located in Council-owned buildings that we lease from the Council.   We also sometimes receive community grants from the Council to run a specific program or for other specified purposes that we acquit that funding against.  All of our ongoing running costs such as rent, electricity, marketing, staffing, new toys, toy storage etc are funded either from member fees or from grants that our volunteer committee applies for. 

Most toy libraries, including ours, require their members to volunteer as part of their membership.   Without members volunteering, we would rely on a handful of committee members (also volunteers) who would have to open each and every session for the toy library in addition to all the work they do behind the scenes.   At 5 sessions a week, you can see how that might quickly become impossible and the toy library would close!  In fact, many toy libraries have closed for exactly that reason!   By requiring members to volunteer, we are able to keep fees lower and spread the load of opening the toy library for every session.   This also helps ensure that people using the toy library act as part of a community of members, as opposed to consumers of a service that is provided for them.  We are all equally responsible for the operation of the toy library and therefore we all have a vested interest in being good community members.  

Recently, we have introduced a non-duty toy library membership for an additional $100 per year.   This extra fee helps offset the cost of a paid coordinator who basically “takes the place” of that lost volunteer to run the toy library.   Our hope is that this membership option opens up the toy library to families who otherwise might not participate. 

Around 90% of our members choose to pay the lower fee and volunteer once per term.

We know it can be scary to consider volunteering at first, but it’s one of the best parts of being a toy library member!   We always pair new member/volunteers with a more experienced member for their first 4-5 duties with us at the toy library.   Duties aren’t onerous – you might help set up and pack up, count toys, greet members, use the online system or tidy the toy library collection.    Members are welcome to bring their kids to their volunteer session so long as they are also able to help out while the kids are present.    We always have 2-3 volunteers on at a time, including one more experienced person and usually a couple of newer members.  Volunteering is a great way to see new toys in the collection, get to know other members, and have a longer browse of the collection.    

We understand that all of our members are parents with kids and that life happens!   We encourage all members to choose their own volunteer session so that it can fit in with their schedule.   If you realise you won’t be able to make a session more than a week in advance, please nominate yourself for a different session through SETLS and contact Hannah on roster@yarrarangestoylibraries.com.au who will be able to remove you from the original session.   If you have a last-minute emergency that means you can’t arrive for your session, please post to the Facebook group or message us on our Facebook page where a committee member can respond.  For absolute last minute emergencies (sick kids with gastro!) you can contact Erica or another committee member by phone using the phone number provided in your confirmation communication.   

Members who just don’t show up to a session mean that we can’t open the toy library that day causing disappointment and frustration for members who show up to borrow.   In this case, you may be charged a no-show fee and have your membership suspended until you nominate for a new duty.   Again, we understand that life happens – work with us and we will find a solution!

Log into your SETLS account (details in your member welcome email) to see what toys you have borrowed, their due dates and to renew any toys you need to.  Toys can be renewed a maximum of once for an extra 4 weeks.

Sometimes!  We love donations and love to extend the playable lives of toys whenever we can.  Much of our collection has been built from generous donations from our community.   However, we always have to consider our storage situation, acquisition policy, insurance requirements, suitability for the toy library, and whether we already have too many of a particular type of toy.   Generally speaking, we only take donations of high-quality, good/excellent condition, non-licensed (no Mickey Mouse or Disney items etc) toys that meet Australian standards (no home-made toys).   If you have toys you would like to offer us, the best option is to send us a picture of what you have so the committee can determine whether we can accept your donation or not.  Please do not bring toys to the toy library for donation until they have been approved by the committee as we hate to turn people away and dumped toys will have to be disposed of if we can’t take them into our collection.   If we are unable to accept a donation of toys, we recommend trying your local Buy Nothing group to see if a local family can take them.  Broken and damaged toys can often be recycled through BigW’s toy recycling program.  

Toys are borrowed for a period of 4 weeks and can be renewed for a further 4 weeks through your SETLS account.  If toys are overdue, you may receive a call or email from us asking you to return the toys. If something has come up and you’re unable to return the toys yourself during opening hours, we can often make arrangements for a committee member to pick them up from you.   Our first priority will always be finding a way to get the toys returned and we will work with you to achieve this.   Toys that are severely overdue and have not been returned despite repeated attempts to contact you, may be invoiced for their replacement value.  In some cases, your member accounts will be locked and you will not be able to borrow toys if you have overdue toys that have not been returned.    If you have lost or broken a toy please just let us know – we are all human and we will work with you to find a reasonable solution. 

While we make our best effort to ensure that toys are complete, broken and missing pieces do happen.   We strongly encourage all members to count all their toys before they leave the toy library to ensure that there aren’t broken or missing pieces in a toy you are taking home.   If you discover a toy you want to borrow has a broken or missing piece please just alert whoever is on duty for that session and they will mark it down in SETLS and put a missing pieces sticker on it before you take it home.    Toys that are returned with broken or missing pieces that weren’t previously noted may be put onto your account as having been lost or broken at your house.  Please count your pieces before borrow!

Clean it!  Unlike a public, government-run library, we aren’t a service that is provided FOR the community – we are provided BY the community.  This means that as members, we are all responsible for helping keep the toy collection clean, safe and complete.    We ask that all members clean their toys before they are returned so we can all enjoy a clean toy collection.   However, if a dirty toy slips through, please clean it yourself rather than returning it and making it a different volunteer’s problem!

Toy library toys are generally loaned out WITHOUT batteries.   Members are welcome to use their own batteries for a toy while on loan, but we ask that batteries are removed before the toy is returned.   This is because toys sometimes go long periods of time between loans and batteries can leak and corrode in the meantime, making them unsafe for borrowing.    Sometimes, a member has forgotten to remove batteries so they remain in the toys.   Most of our sessions are run by volunteers, and it’s not reasonable for us to check every toy for battery removal at each borrow/return.   If you notice that a toy either has batteries or needs new batteries, please use your own or remove them before returning the toy. 

Missing pieces happen!  And regular wear and tear is expected and sometimes results in broken pieces!  At the end of the day, our priority is getting the pieces back, not “punishing” members for life’s little happenings.  

Each member gets 5 “free” missing pieces on their account before we start charging $5 per piece.    Return the pieces, and these will be removed from your account and no further fees will be charged until you hit 5 missing pieces again.  We don’t refund fees that have already been charged, so the best thing is to return pieces as soon as they are found.   All of our pieces have the toy number marked or engraved on them so they should be easy to distinguish from your own toys at home. 

If a toy has broken and it’s from normal wear and tear, there is no consequence to you.   Things happen and we don’t expect toys to last forever.   However, if you’ve been negligent with a toy, such as leaving it out in the rain, or letting your dog chew on it, we may ask that you replace the toy at the replacement value, or donate a similar or equivalent toy to replace it.   This is determined on a case-by-case basis and we always try to come to a resolution that works for both the toy library community and you as a member.