“There is a tool for every task and a task for every tool” said Tywin Lannister from a Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin. While that statement may ring true, not every person has the tools to do the task. It was this realization and a recent presentation on the sharing economy at the Local Prosperity Conference held recently in Annapolis Royal that convinced Michael Graves, Coordinator for the United Way of Lunenburg County, and Meghan Doucette, a recent Dalhousie graduate with a Major in Environment, Sustainability and Society, that a tool library could work in our area.
The first Tool Library was started in Columbus Ohio back in 1976. Since that time Tool Libraries have sprung up all over the world and can now be found in 9 countries, including 14 locations in Canada. A 15th Tool Library is soon to be added in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.
So what exactly is a tool library and why do we need one here? It’s as simple as it sounds: it’s a “library”, or place, that lends tools. The purpose is to remove barriers so that apartment dwellers, students or low-income residents have access to the tools that can help improve their quality of life. An added benefit is a reduction in the need for “stuff”. If there is a Tool Library where folks can borrow tools, there is less need for everyone to have a full set of tools of their own. This is beneficial to the environment at a time when our culture is fuelled by cheap products that often end up in a landfill. Anybody looking for a tool can borrow it from the library provided that it is in stock and available to loan. A tool library could also be a social hub or space that would bring together people of varying backgrounds, abilities and economic status. This space could lead to new friendships, help people expand their personal networks and a catalyst for new community projects and ideas. Once up and running they hope to work with local building and hardware businesses to tap into their incredible knowledge and offer “how to” seminars on a variety of topics. This could lead to increased business through the purchase of consumables like sandpaper, blades, hardware, paint and a host of other products.
Currently the library is just a big idea. But it is a big idea with legs. With financial support from the United Way of Lunenburg County, free use of the United Way’s Bikes for Kids storage space at the Bridgewater Mall, access to a specialized tool management software program and more, the Bridgewater Tool Library is well on its way for an expected fall opening.
What is needed now are some local volunteers with a passion for tools and an interest in helping to build a new social enterprise that will bring positive value to our community.
What are also needed are tools. Lots and lots and lots of donated tools. These may be tools sitting on your workbench gathering dust, tools you inherited or tools that you personally or corporately want to buy and donate to the library. The success of the tool library is ultimately dependent on the variety and number of tools available to loan. In addition to small tools like hammers, screwdrivers and wrenches, the tool library is also looking for items (in no particular order) like a belt sander, power washer, skill saw, sanders, table saw, router, miter saw, jig saw, shop vac, drills, hedge clippers, reciprocal saw, nail gun/ w compressor, planers, C clamps, clamps, staple guns, stud finder, laser level.
The Lunenburg County Tool Library will be membership based. Fees collected will be used to acquire new or gently used tools that are needed by the members and to help underwrite the cost of operations. Organizers are currently working on a fee structure with a yearly membership of $30 likely. Graves says that we have to be careful not to put up too many barriers to restrict usage by our lower income neighbours. It’s not the point of the library to restrict access. Currently many tool libraries are open one to two days a week for an average of 4 hours a day. For the first year we would most likely stick to a one day opening says Doucette. Of course that would be contingent on the needs of the members and the enthusiasm and commitment of our volunteers.
If you have new or gently used tools that you would like to donate to the Lunenburg County Tool Library you can drop them off at the Centre Court of the Bridgewater Mall during the month of September or bring them to the Growing Green Festival Street Fair on King Street in Downtown Bridgewater on Saturday August 22 between 10 am and 3 pm.
If you are looking for more information like us on Facebook – Bridgewater Tool Library, we hope to have our website operational soon. You can also e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a voice mail with the United Way 902-530-3072.