by Elisha Kittson
Calgary Tool Library co-founder (and Momentum’s Financial Literacy Manager) Courtney Hare takes some time out of her busy, err…redonkulous schedule to tell us about her tool lending program. A social enterprise setup in Calgary’s downtown neighborhood of Bridgeland promoting tool sharing as a means to reduce cost, waste, and help people get to know their neighbors.
“You’ve heard the phrase ready, fire, aim? That’s how you start a tool library,” joked Hare. “As my first foray into entrepreneurship I’m noticing it’s like decorating a house, you get new curtains and think the place will look finished, but then realize you need a new couch. It’s a seemingly un-ending unfolding of possibility and opportunity. You’re always thinking, when I get this done it’ll be done, but it never is.”
Stemmed from Hare’s personal frustration in buying one tool, for one job, and never needing it again, the initiative has now blossomed to include over 30 volunteer ‘librarians’ who staff a tool shed housing over 400 of the most in-demand products.
For a very reasonable $40 per annum, members can borrow home and garden tools, learn about using different tool types, and participate in workshops that range from home to basic car maintenance and repairs.
“We wanted the offering shaped by the needs of the community. This project has attracted the most amazing collection of human beings gifts and talents that I’ve ever seen, from artists and stay at home moms to engineers and lawyers. It’s an awesome community of people,” shares Hare.
Members of the ever-growing tool lending community gathered onsite at the Bridgeland Riverside Community Association (BRCA) on November 11 for a retrofit and expansion of the library’s space. A group of 18 volunteers worked on electrical upgrades, lighting and winterizing the shed which will enable the library to accommodate the availability of donated tools to double its inventory, and its membership base.
First Calgary Financial among other partners like Skyfire Energy who provided a solar panel to heat the space during the winter months took some of the sting out of the financial implications of growing to scale.
“We’re very proud of Courtney and her team of volunteers,” says Teri Buckley, First Calgary Financial’s Corporate Citizenship Advisor. “The tool library is a great example of Community Economic Development at its core – it’s not only empowering people with applicable skills and knowledge, but helping create more resourceful, resilient communities.”
This isn’t the first-time the Tool library’s innovative model has attracted investment. Last spring, it was chosen as one of four projects to receive a share of the $25,000 pot from Simon Fraser University’s Community Economic Development (CED) certificate program’s Social Innovation Challenge (of which Hare is a program graduate). The year before, the Awesome Foundation awarded The Tool library $1000 in a pitch contest.
“We’ve been fortunate to have some great partners. In addition to the financial support from the Calgary community, we received mentoring from the folks at the Vancouver Tool library. But all of that came as the project unfolded. You can do this on a shoestring, and it doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to get done. The coolest thing is the sense of ownership it fosters in the community,” concludes Hare.