Handy But Bereft? Check Out The Vancouver Tool Library, A Thrift House Of DIY Solutions

Spring! Time to get cleaning, building and planting. The do-it-yourself approach is awesome, but can stall if you run up against a task requiring a specific tool that isn’t in your shed. It doesn’t have to be that way. While you could run out and buy that rototiller that you’re only going to need for an hour and a half or call around to all of your pals until you find someone who knows someone who might have something that approximates what you’re looking for, you could skip all that tedium by just scooting over to the Vancouver Tool Library. There, you can borrow what you need and then take it back, saving both coin and clutter. Awesome, eh?This week, we put a bunch of questions to their Communications Coordinator, Caitlin Dorward, to learn more….

Three things about the Cedar Cottage area that made you want to set up shop there: Our interest in the neighbourhood was pretty home grown – most of the founding Board Members lived in the area. We also recognized that there are a lot of young families, new homeowners, apartment dwellers, and renters in the area – these are all groups who we thought the tool library would most benefit as it has the potential to save them money and space. We were really excited to find our shop space on Commercial Street specifically because it’s turning into a nice little hub of new, small businesses that is just far enough off the beaten track to feel neighbourly but not so far that it’s hard to find!

What will Vancouverites find at the Vancouver Tool Library? Our shop is full of power and hand tools for construction and DIY projects, bike maintenance, and gardening. Other than tools, you’ll find at least two volunteers running the shop at any time you stop by. We have about twenty volunteers who help keep the shop running smoothly and staff all our open hours. Many of them are really knowledgeable about using tools and happy to provide project advice or help you choose the right tool for the job.

What inspires you? Lately, seeing people’s confidence and excitement grow after going through our Intro-to-Tools workshops has been very inspiring. One of the participant’s in March’s workshop recently got in touch with us and said: “I wanted to email and thank you so much for the awesome workshop! I already planted up my planter and am scheming other projects: walls for my garage! benches for my deck! a playhouse! more planter boxes! We will definitely be joining the library and are looking forward to taking more workshops and trying out the tools.” Seeing that our services have the potential to create this kind of positive impact is what motivates us to improve and expand the VTL’s presence in the community.

Latest novelty tool added to your collection: Our garden tools saw little use over the winter months, but with spring in the air they’re finally getting their day in the sun. We recently acquired a rototiller to add to our garden tool collection, and we’re hoping it might be used to turn a few lawns into food gardens this summer!

One tool that you are dying to use in a project: I have a beautiful road bike frame that I’ve been trying to find the time to build up for a while now. We have a full set of bike tools at the shop that I will be making use of soon to tackle this project.

What sort of music does The Tool Library like to play? The CBC! That’s what we usually have playing on our shop radio. Unless Chris is working the shop shift, in which case he’s most definitely streaming Jazz.FM

What are some of the cooler projects that you know your tools have played a role in creating? At our volunteer meet-up last month, we worked together on an Adirondack chair that is going to be raffled off in a VTL fundraiser at our upcoming Spring Garage Sale (see below). Our members recently used our saws and sanders to build a beautiful bar in his kitchen out of cedar that he rescued from a demolition site, and another was in and out of the tool library almost every day we were open over the winter as he worked through a complete renovation of a Vancouver Special he’d just purchased – pretty dedicated! We’ve been pulling together other stories and photos of the projects our members have completed with VTL tools, and you can check them out on our blog.

Three websites you visit every day: For news, ideas, and inspiration about the growing international movement towards the sharing of resources: Collaborative Consumption. We’re excited to be contributing to Vancouver’s Greenest City goals in the zero-waste area. For Greenest City updates and reports: Vancouver Greenest City. For the best deals on used tools: Craigslist

What, outside of Vancouver, is on the VTL’s radar: Last year a few of our Board Members travelled down to Portland, Oregon to participate in the Village Building Convergence, a ten-day event put on annually by an amazing organization called City Repair. During the convergence, communities across Portland come together to create benches, community kiosks, gardens, street paintings, tile mosaics, and more. We had an awesome time working on these projects with Portland residents while we were down there, and learned a lot about bringing people together to improve public space. It’s our goal to put some of these lessons to work this summer in public projects organized by the Tool Library!

We would love to visit is the Berkeley Tool Lending Library in Berkeley, California. It’s the only tool library we’ve heard of that is actually a branch of the municipal public library rather than an entity in and of itself. With annual funding from the public library’s operating budget, the BTLL has amassed a collection of over 2,500 tools and employs four part-time staff. It sounds like a pretty impressive shop, and we would love to go see first hand how this very unique organizational model works on the ground!

The three most often borrowed tools at the VTL? This changes from month to month, but in March our most popular tools were sliding compound mitre saws, cordless drills, and routers. The pressure washer and the wet tile saw are other tools that often make it onto the most-borrowed list.

Don’t miss the Vancouver Tool Library Garage Sale this weekend. Pick up a tool you might need or drop off a whack of stuff no longer being used and have it go in to the Library system for others to use. Full details after the jump…

Sunday, April 15 | 10-2pm | The Tool Library | 3448 Commercial Street 


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