It began when avid DIYer Courtney Hare had a eureka moment in the middle of the night. What if people could access a range of tools without having to buy, rent or store them?
Hare pitched the idea to the Awesome Foundation, hoping she could get a grant. She got one. That pitch also attracted a small community of volunteers who went on to create an enormously successful tool library in Calgary’s Bridgeland/Riverside communities.
Hare says the two-year path from “eureka” to launch day wasn’t always smooth. “Maybe we were afraid of failure. We weren’t entrepreneurs. We had no capital, no experience, no existing model in the city.” The project hibernated for months before Hare, who works as financial literacy manager at Momentum, decided she’d better just go for it. “It’s better to do a thing and get it wrong than not to do it at all.”
She put a notice in the Bridgeland-Riverside community newsletter inviting people to get involved, and set a launch date of June 7, 2014.
From that point, Hare says, it was the little library that could. A team came together, a neighbour who works as a tool consultant for Makita got a discount on tools and the president of the community association took the idea to Bridgeland’s condo communities. The team secured a shed and began to stock it, pooling their own tools and purchasing others.
Less than a year since it opened, the Calgary Tool Library has become a prized community resource and gathering place, attracting patrons not only from Bridgeland but from neighbourhoods all over the city.
Entrepreneurs, small business owners and the nearby Bridgeland Community Garden uses this resource, as do people tackling home repairs and art projects. Beakerhead became the Library’s first organizational member and the Bench Project, a community-based initiative to construct and install free benches around the city, also relies on the Calgary Tool Library.
The Library is beginning to offer basic equipment-training workshops, and Hare says it provides plenty of informal training as well. “The library is a hub for great conversations. People stay and ask questions and chat with other members.”
Hare lives in a 1928 bungalow that needs plenty of maintenance — an activity she’s always loved. “I learned through YouTube and my grandfather and trial and error. I was always borrowing tools.” Hare is happy that she no longer needs to drive around the city picking up tools in order to complete a project, and even happier that the Calgary Tool Library represents a step forward in the city’s sharing economy. “There are so few of us that need our own tools, and there’s really no advantage to individual ownership.”
Today, the Calgary Tool Library is one of five in Canada (the others are in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Halifax) and one of the few lending programs in Calgary, including Protospace, the Permaculture Guild Mobile Garden Tools and the Albert Park Gardening Tool Rentals. Hare would love to see more. “Every major condo building could have a tool library. Every community. That would be really cool to see.”
The Calgary Tool Library This volunteer-run program lends, maintains and stores a range of tools to Calgarians in exchange for a $40 annual membership fee. The Library is run out of a 500 square foot shed in Bridgeland.
This article was originally published in the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations Further Magazine written by Julia Williams. Photo by Jared Sych.