Toronto Tool Library Turns One

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Toronto Tool Library had much to celebrate on the night of its one-year anniversary.

When its co-founders Ryan Dyment and Lawrence Alvarez came up with the idea of creating a lending library for tools people would otherwise have to buy or rent, they couldn’t have predicted the outpouring of support from the community.

Today, Toronto Tool Library has two locations, 550 members, over 2,000 tools worth up to $80,000 and close to 3,000 successful loans. When did that happen? Some of us at BetaKit still remember the first location and a crowdfunding campaign for the second location in the east end of the city, like it was yesterday.

“When we started the tool library it was just a huge experiment. We thought it would be a good idea and incredible project, and we dared to hope that humans using tools would actually bring them back,” Lawrence Alvarez, a co-founder of Toronto Tool Library told BetaKit. “Some of the equipment we have has been donated, even before we even opened.”

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Sharing beats ownership

So what could you find at Toronto Tool Library? In addition to the more popular tools like 3D printers and table saws, the library carries some pretty unusual items that range from a fishing auger, used to make fishing holes in ice, to Lasersaur, the largest publicly available laser-cutter.

“People come in with some pretty outrageous projects like redoing their roof or finishing their own basements, and we try to get all the equipment they need,” said Alvarez. “People are building furniture, coffee tables, microscopes, quadrocopters and drones, garden planters.”

“In October, we opened the new location and makerspace on Danforth that’s three times bigger than the Parkdale location. We have a workshop wishlist and try to respond to what the community wants. For example, there’s a Repair Cafe every Saturday, where people can bring broken household items, and volunteer fixers will help them fix whatever’s broken.”

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Collaborative consumption

The co-founders plan to use the tool library as a proven model to talk about collaborative consumption, and challenge people’s perception of ownership and how they access resources. So why not have sharing hubs for other things, like board games, bicycles, kitchen equipment, even seeds?

“We live in an abundance turned into a manufactured kind of scarcity. Money replaces relationships we have, splits us apart. You have to work pretty hard to get the basic necessities of life, in part because everyone has been asked to buy everything. We must utilize our resources in a better way that does justice to our planet and move toward collaborative consumption,” Alvarez said.

Toronto Tool Library is a project of the Institute for a Resource Based Economy (IRBE), made possible with support from Centre for Social Innovation, Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC) that housed the very first tool library, and the Ontario Trillium Foundation grants.

Dear Toronto Tool Library: here’s to many more years. Keep being amazing.

Elena Yunusov

Elena Yunusov

Elena Yunusov works at the intersection of digital communications and experience design. She is known in Toronto’s startup community as a HoHoTO & Toronto Maker Faire co-organizer. She likes coffee, robots, and wearable tech.