DENVER (CBS4) – Rounding out the southern edge of the art district on Santa Fe is an art gallery turned tool shop. Wrenches and hammers cover the walls, chop saws fill the space below shelves, and a massive table-sized drill sits in the middle of the room.
Sarah Steiner is there, tool library t-shirt on display, to tell me about her creative brainchild, the Denver Tool Library.
She had the idea when building a recording studio with her boyfriend, a project that required specialty tools they did not own or wish to purchase. A community tool bank would be the ideal solution …
So she started a Facebook page and conducted a survey — nearly 400 people responded with interest in a tool library and willingness to pay. A page on Indiegogo ensured funding by offering advanced membership. About 60 tool libraries can be found across the country, Sarah tells me, which were great examples to take bits and pieces from.
The community showed it’s true support, though, when the Denver Tool Library became a tangible reality. At least a dozen volunteers showed up every weekend to help clear the warehouse, build the shelves, and organize thousands of tools.
Sarah was thrilled to see that people meant it when they said they’d be interested. More support came in the form of tools. The over 2000 tools were donated from a variety of sources.
Some people were upgrading their equipment and passed on the older tools to the library. Some were moving and no longer needed or wanted their tools. Companies with warehouses of items they couldn’t sell — whether it be for torn packaging or some minor flaw — gave to the library. There were instances of widows giving their husbands’ old tools to the library, or a former builder who now wished to share his supplies. In this way, the library was built on very personal exchanges.
The idea is to pool our resources so we can all have more. “If I weren’t sharing all these I would never have had access to a chop saw,” said Sarah.
Most of us don’t want to buy specialty tools or have large equipment take up space, yet once a year there’s a need for that exact tool. Which is when you head to the Denver Tool Library.
And yet, “We’re sharing not just tools and space, but skills and knowledge,” Sarah says.
It’s another extension of the sharing economy, and though Millennials are most familiar with the concept, Sarah says older generations are absolutely on board.
The old carpenter who’s done projects his whole life will meet a young couple at the tool library looking to find the right piece of equipment for building a patio. They end up working together, sharing ideas, and making it happen.
This is what Sarah loves about her business. She didn’t know much about tools in the beginning, but the idea of building a community really sparked the venture.
That and the fact that you can dabble in anything without having to buy big, expensive, specialty tools!
The Denver Tool Library is now working on growing classes. Their first class will be July 11, hosted by someone who wanted to teach basic power tool skills and needed a space to do it. The Denver Library (the one with books) also wants to collaborate with the tool library on classes.
People are constantly sending Sarah photos of their DIY creations and accomplishments that resulted from the use of library tools, so her goal is to take the most popular of those projects and turn them into workshops.
The Denver Permaculture Guild, a partner of the tool library, will be working on the grounds to beautify the back lot. That will be a class in itself, teaching people how to implement permaculture. Other partnerships include a coffee shop, because coffee fuels the doers, an ice cream shop whose gift cards are raffled off, and a tattoo artist who designed the library’s bandanas in exchange for a membership.
One of the best ways to check it out for yourself is by visiting on First Friday. The entire art district of Santa Fe opens up to the city on the first Friday of every month, with drinks and displays to encourage gatherings. Sarah said they’ve participated and hosted several bands in their lot. The next step is to find a beer sponsor.
Or, just come in! You can stop by to volunteer, register as a member, or work on projects — Saturdays are the best.
The Denver Tool Library is a product of the community, driven by the people from the start.
Sarah hopes the concept will grow in popularity, expanding into other neighborhoods and surrounding cities. For now, though, Denver has a DIY gathering place all its own for those who want to learn and those who want to teach.
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