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Need Maker Space? Build a Tool Library!

April 6, 2016       Building Block
Need Maker Space?
Build a Tool Library!
Shared workspace is one of the hottest
trends for Tech Start-ups. Tool libraries
and DIY workshops in communities is
another awesome idea-revived for
the Age of Sharing Economies.

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image Credit:  Richard Eriksson              for WikiCommons CC BY 2.0
The Vancouver Tool Library 


All the buzz right now is on shared workspaces as a melting pot for the Age of Shared Economies among tech start-ups and trending entrepreneurial bootstrapped projects--who can't set up their own physical brick-and-mortar shop. 


Image Credit:  DeskUnion             for Wiki Commons CC BY-SA 3.0
DeskUnion in Glasgow:  A shared workspace hub where local
freelancers and start-up entrepreneurs can get together and
make things happen.


Under the radar, on the other side of the fence where manual hard work and master craftsmen ply their trade, we see Tool Libraries (said to have existed since the 1970s) as the shared workspace for salt-of-the-earth types, (not that tech entrepreneurs aren't salt-of-the-earth types) sprouting in all the smarter communities around the world.  It is a storage repository manned by a Tool Librarian-Craftsperson who lends out work and shop tools to the local community to help members get by with what they have and provide them with tools for staying resourceful and enduring.

Some might think that OWNING and keeping work tools handy at home is the golden rule.  From screwdrivers, saws, drills, chisels, and workbenches.   But once used, people rarely get to bring out their good tools again and having a local tool library with a good inventory of work and craft tools  helps neighbors help each other build and repair.  People can use their tool library for free or for a nominal subscription-donation.  Tool lending is an idea that is quickly becoming part of the cornerstone of any shared economy community with green workplace proponents.  There are now 50 active tool libraries around the world and there are more being set up.


Image Credit: jpdunn for  WikiCommons CC BY-SA 2.0
The Fixers Collective At The West Seattle Tool Library's
Community Workshop--where people WORK for a living.

A Kitchen Library?...in Toronto's Tool Library

The Toronto Tool Library is one of the more impressive worktool sharing repositories in Canada. They have 3D Printing Workshop maker space, tool training workshops for locals, and after school events for kids who want to explore crafts making and learning a trade.  They even have a Kitchen Library--a tool library that lends out kitchen appliances in the Toronto community.  It is a non-proift operation that is a part of the Toronto Tool Library and opened its doors in October 2013.  The Kitchen Library also teaches workshops to locals--believing that living space and income shouldn't deprive people from cooking well and healthy eating. By providing access to otherwise costly and space-consuming appliances the Toronto Tool Library and its wing: The Kitchen Library make a sharing economy inside a first-world community more sustainable and the future of good living.  In 2014 the amazing Kitchen Library of Toronto was named by Canadian Living as one of the 7 Canadian inventions that make life better for locals.

How to Start Your Own Tool Library
Founders of the best tool libraries in the U.S. are offering plenty of open source advice on tool libraries. A webinar featuring everything you need to know for starting and maintaining a tool library is available on You Tube.  


Image Credit IRBI (Institute for Resource based Economy  Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0
The Toronto Tool Library and part of its Work Tool Inventory
(Article thumbnail photo is also from the Toronto Tool Library archive)

You can get fundraising ideas, tips on buying the best cheap tools, getting brands to sponsor your tool library, membership subscriptions for sustainability and maintenance, location options, volunteers, legalities, fees, tool maintenance and repair, inventory records, and outreach.  There is also a Tool Library Google Groups where people discuss the needs of putting together the best tool library given limited resources.

A Filipino Tool Library?


In the Philippines, a non-profit organization called Philippines Communitere has set up headquarters in Tacloban following the Typhoon Haiyan storm-surge disaster, to help rebuild the community and promote a self-sustaining model for community growth.  It may be the first organization to have established a Tool Library for local Filipinos to share work tools.  Especially among the Tacloban locals in the area to help them rebuild their lives. 

The Tacloban Tool Library is located in Apitong and is known as the Logistics Resource Center of the Philippines Communitere. 

Aside from being a depot for sharing work tools, the place is being set up with workshop space for livelihood projects and as storage space for stockpiling recyclable materials to be used for reconstruction and emergency repairs.  The sad thing about this is that the people putting in effort and resources to rebuild lives in Tacloban by setting up a community Tool Library are French volunteers off the main HQ based in Haiti. 


Tool Libraries As Survival Depots

In other areas of the Philippines and even in the ASEAN Integrated Community, the power of having local Tool Libraries in any kind of community as a way for promoting a shared local economies for a better transition from being too reliant on a capitalist supply grid to a more resilient and localized green society that can sustain its own livelihood whatever happens to the supply grid.

Tool libraries should be a staple of each community going forward into the future.  Even kitchen libraries are a great way to allow people to use cooking and food prep appliances to prepare meals. 

When disaster strikes anywhere, these repositories provide precious immediate use for rehab and reconstruction.  For local communities going through economic crises, tool libraries offer craft tools for helping the community work on livelihood projects.  For local entrepreneurs, which can include enterprising students, tool libraries provide maker tools and maker space for building stuff or what would be known in the past as a craftsmen's guild or workshop. 

You can visit the websites of all the established tool libraries around the world for advise and assistance in know-how if you plan on setting up your own tool library for your community. 


Image Credit:  West Seattle Tool Library
The West Seattle Tool Library stores a variety of tools that
the community can use for home repairs or for personal
project including entrepreneurial maker DIY work like crafts.

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