If you attended the Ontario Library Association conference last week, you may have heard futurist Thomas Frey predict that public libraries would become places where people could borrow generators and other tools. A community project in Toronto has created the city's first tool library.
With decreasing print circulation and the demise of the DVD in the next few years, is this the direction that public libraries should go?
Community project aims to give affordable access to expensive tools — and promote resource sharing.
Need a power drill, paint roller or a small generator? Try the library — the Tool Library, that is.
When it opens next month in Parkdale, Toronto’s first Tool Library will be lending out all the necessities for DIY domination for an annual fee tailored to income. Training on how to use the tools will also be offered.
The brains behind the idea, Ryan Dyment and Lawrence Alvarez, say the goal is to provide inexpensive access to tools to a whole neighbourhood — and in particular, to low-income people, new immigrants, charities and community groups.
“We’re offering a place where people can donate their tools . . . that were basically sitting around in their basements rarely being used . . . and access them whenever they are needed,” Dyment says. “Other people who need the tools are having to spend their hard-earned money on buying new tools or renting them at an expensive price, when they (could be) available from a neighbour they haven’t met yet.”
Inspired by similar tool libraries based in Vancouver and cities south of the border, Dyment and Alvarez found a potential location for theirs last fall, in the basement of the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre.
Now they are working with volunteers to renovate the 700-square-foot space to store the $10,000 worth of tools they intend to start with.
Some of the tools have already been donated by people in the community, with encouragement from the Salvation Army store in Parkdale, which is offering a $5 discount to people who donate tools. Corporate sponsors such as Canadian Tire and The Mibro Group have also pitched in.
For people earning more than $40,000, the annual membership fee will be $50, Dyment says. Those who earn less will pay less.
They aim to attract 500 members in their first year, the number achieved by the Vancouver Tool Library.
While the library will be volunteer-run when it first opens next month, they hope eventually to employ someone to run it three or four days a week.
But Alvarez says the library is part of a bigger picture: promoting sustainability through resource-sharing.
The pair, who have long been involved in environmental activism, founded a non-profit called the Institute for a Resource-Based Economy a year ago. The Tool Library is their first major project.
“It’s a physical example of how we can reorient our society to be a more collaborative experience,” says Alvarez. “What can we do with resources we have and how do we get them into the hands of the people that need (them)?”