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Local tool library continues to grow, adding shared workspace next month

Midweek Mugging: The Ottawa Tool Library on City Centre Avenue offers up a variety of hand, power and garden tools for members to use for personal projects, much like a traditional library but without the books.
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The Ottawa Tool Library is quickly becoming a one-stop-shop for everyone’s ‘do-it-yourself’ needs.

The Tool Library offers up a variety of hand, power and garden tools for members to use for personal projects, much like a traditional library but without the books.

That doesn’t mean it’s lacking in education, though.

The Library, located on City Centre Avenue, also holds monthly workshops that offer a chance to learn and provide tips on how to complete a wide-variety of projects, from fixing that hole in the drywall you left trying to hang a picture or fixing that floorboard that won’t stop squeaking.

The Tool Library has grown exponentially over four years, from roughly 250 tools to now about 2,500, while yearly memberships have gone from 0 to 1,465, according to co-founder Bettina Vollmerhausen. 

“The more people that use these tools, the better is for the environment, the better it is for our community, for their pocketbooks and so we want to increase that,” Vollmerhausen said in an interview with OttawaMatters.com. 

“There should be a tool library in every neighbourhood, that’s the way it should be, but it’s a lot of work to get one going,” she said, noting the work involved with setting it up, keeping it running, training ‘tool librarians' and repairing broken tools to ensure they’re safe to use.

Vollmerhausen said these are the challenges of any start-up but she’d be willing to share advice with anyone that would like start their own in any other community in Ottawa.

The service heavily relies on volunteers to keep it open, a total group of 35 people at the moment, which helps keep it open three nights a week.

Memberships are $60 per year and includes free access to hand tools and a rate of $1 per day for power tools.

The idea for the library came from the United States, which actually began in the 1970’s, with the movement moving to Canada with its first location in Vancouver in 2011 before moving across Canada.

There’s now over 20 in Canada, including in the Yukon, while Ottawa’s chapter opened in 2015.

The newest addition to the Ottawa service is a shared workshop set to open in May, located in the same location as the library, which allows for access to tools, education and a workspace in one location.

“Lots of people live in apartment buildings or condos and say ‘I want to make a headboard for my condo but I can’t take the table saw home and do that in my studio apartment…do you have any space where I can actually work?’”

“We were never able to offer that,” Vollmerhausen said, adding memberships for the space will be on a monthly basis as that’s usually how long people will take to finish their own projects. 

The education workshops have also been very valuable in a number of areas, including ones held specifically for women, with another ‘Power Tools for Women 101’ coming up April 24.

“It’s often women who come and say ‘my dad taught my brother how to use tools but not me’ and they can be more inhibited, so we wanted to provide a very safe area for them to experience that,” she said.

Memberships are now almost evenly split between men and women and she believes the workshops have play a role in that gender parity.

“People will come and say they want to learn…and it gives them an incredible amounts of confidence,” to take on projects on their own.

“That’s actually what’s so empowering, when you see that light in their eyes when they’ve finished a project and that self-confidence.”

Other workshops on mudding or sanding continue throughout the year, mostly catering to the season, like a sprouting workshop coming up next month or canning classes for preserves in the fall.

Those interested in a membership can find information at OttawaToolLibrary.com.




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