Tool Libraries, Circular Economy, and Mutual Aid

Several years ago, a friend in Indianapolis started a tool library. He was supported by the Kheprw Institute community I was involved with.

That library included photography equipment. I liked the idea that those who couldn’t afford their own camera being able to check one out for a while. Besides taking personal photos, it could also be used for justice events.

iTooLL: Indy Tool Lending Library

iTooLL is a membership-based tool sharing project that makes audio, visual, creative, and event production tools available for just $1/week. As a member, you are also given direct purchasing power to fill the library with the tools you need.

Economic status should not determine Indianapolis art, culture, and entrepreneurship! For creatives, makers, organizers, and aspiring professionals alike, access to quality equipment can often dictate creative capacity, event effectiveness, and overall community impact. Equal access is key to amplifying diverse Indianapolis voices.

For the past two years I’ve been part of a Mutual Aid community and I see as a just alternative to capitalism. Tool libraries work within the context of Mutual Aid.

Based on principles and practices of resource use reduction, sharing, conviviality, solidarity, and mutual aid, the BTL can be considered a small-scale laboratory for a reorientation of society towards degrowth.

Brisbane Tool Library

I share here few key insights of my experience in being part of and contributing to the Brisbane Tool Library (BTL). Based on principles and practices of resource use reduction, sharing, conviviality, solidarity, and mutual aid, the BTL can be considered a small-scale laboratory for a reorientation of society towards degrowth. The most common understanding of a tool library is that it is a library for things, in which people can borrow tools, camping gear, kitchen appliances, and many other items. The work undertaken at the BTL since 2017, however, goes beyond lending items — it seeks to build systemic change.

The Brisbane Tool Library challenges the system’s misconception that quality of life rests solely on individual ownership of more and more things. It shows that we can meet people’s needs by prioritizing access over individual ownership. This enables a cultural shift towards an economy of sufficiency that nurtures limitation of private ownership as a cultural journey of plenitude. Additionally, by prioritizing access over ownership, tool libraries could also represent a way to reduce inequalities, in particular in cities. The Brisbane Tool Library, like many other tool libraries across the world (such as the Toronto Tool Library in Canada, Seattle Tool Library in the USA, Glasgow Tool Library in the UK Scotland, and La Manivelle in Switzerland) is based on a membership model, meaning that people pay a small annual fee that allows them to borrow various items through the year. 

The Revolutionary Power of the Real Circular Economy. How the Brisbane Tool Library provides an inspiring example of degrowth in action by Sabrina Chakori, Medium, 1/27/2022

The Brisbane Tool Library Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that is sustained by the voluntary contribution of its members. There are many different ways you can get involved and support this change with us. You can help out on a specific project or focus on specific tasks. If you don’t see anything interesting below, just reach out to us and we can discuss any ideas you have about how you can help.

Within the possible tasks we always need staff working at the tool library:

  • Checking in and out the tools that people borrow,
  • Testing & tagging
  • Marketing/media production guru (marketing, photography, videography)
  • Community event organisers (for workshops & social events)
  • Fundraiser heroes and
  • General casual volunteers

Brisbane Tool Library

This is a page from the Brisbane Tool Library. They have more than 1,000 items in their inventory.

tool library is an example of a Library of Things. Tool libraries allow patrons to check out or borrow tools, equipment and “how-to” instructional materials, functioning either as a rental shop, with a charge for borrowing the tools, or more commonly free of charge as a form of community sharing.[1] A tool library performs the following main tasks:

  • Lending: all kinds of tools for use in volunteer projects, facility maintenance and improvement projects, community improvement events, and special events.
  • Advocacy: for the complete and timely return of all borrowed tools, to guarantee the long-term sustainability of available inventory. Staff also seeks compensation for lost tools and tools returned late.
  • Maintenance: performing routine maintenance and repairs on all equipment to ensure good condition and to extend the lifespan of the inventory. This function is typically performed by volunteers and community service workers.
  • Education: Some tool libraries also provide educational classes. Vancouver Tool Library and Community Access Center (VTLCAC) in Vancouver, Washington offers individual project support and classes on woodworking and basic car maintenance[2]

Tool Library

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s