Chris Hellawell visited friends in Toronto a while back and stumbled across an idea that he couldn’t shake from his mind. Upon returning to Edinburgh he set about establishing the UK’s first tool library.
What is a tool library and what’s the idea behind it?
We were intrigued so we travelled through to Edinburgh to pay Chris a visit and find out more.
Edinburgh at this time of year is awash with rain and tourists, driven through the historic streets by March winds, but thankfully as we headed north towards Leith, the clouds parted and a watery sun led us down past tenement buildings to one of the capital’s iconic police boxes on Leith Walk.
When you think of police boxes you probably think of the blue Tardis type, however the ones you find in Edinburgh are a of a design unique to the city, built to match in with the architecture of the surrounding buildings. Of course these days you won’t find a Bobbie inside it nicking some rascal for stealing a loaf of bread. Nowadays enterprising types have taken them over to allow "pop up" exhibitions and shops to present their crafts and wares to passerbys.
Chris sourced such a police box to launch the Edinburgh Tool Library, and that’s where we found him on Saturday, the day of the week where residents of the city turn up to borrow tools.
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And that, in essence, is what the idea behind the Tool Library is; a convenient way for people to borrow the tools they need to get the job done.
The reality is not everyone can afford to buy power or hand tools to carry out DIY repairs, for example. So by joining the library they can arrange to borrow, for a donation if they wish, the tools they need.
Chris explained that he learned from the tool library in Toronto that communites are positively impacted when people can use tools. In particular he wants to be able to help people get back into work by enabling them to learn practical skills using tools.
Watch Chris talk about the project here on Toolstop TV.
Who can become a member of the Edinburgh Tool Library?
Essentially anyone with photo ID can become a member, and once they’ve paid a refundable £10 deposit, can book out any of the library’s tools. But Chris has a vision that includes trade experts to become part of the project, working with young people and the unemployed to pass on their skills, to teach them how to work with the tools, to repair them, and even how to manage customers.
How can you help the Edinburgh Tool Library?
That’s what the team at Toolstop wanted to know, and the main way is through donating tools. Obviously they should be in good condition! We reached out to Makita, Hitach, DeWALT, Bosch, Metabo and Trend and gathered together a haul of tools and accessories to take through to the library. Chris seemed pretty pleased, as you can see from this Facebook update!
What’s the future of the Edinburgh Tool Library?
Chris explained that going forward the charity hopes to generate the funds needed to find and utilise a workshop space in the city, somewhere accessible to the community where people can come along, learn how to use the tools, borrow the ones they need, and at the same time allow trade professionals – oftentimes retirees – to pass on practical skills.
It’s really easy to learn more about the Edinburgh Tool Library, and how you can become involved either by donating tools or your time, or even start a similar library in your town or city. Just click here to read the story of ETL.
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