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Crowdfunding Success!


The Guelph Tool Library’s recent crowdfunding campaign raised over $1200! That’s the equivalent of 30 annual memberships! We also continue to add about two memberships a week to our growing tool library family, getting us well on our way to 250 standing memberships which will make the Guelph Tool Library self-sustainable. A whopping big “thank-you” to everyone who contributed, helped out, and signed up!


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The third Repair Cafe on Feb 18th


We had another successful Repair Cafe on Feb 18th at Tytler Public School, organized in collaboration with Two Rivers Neighbourhood Group. This was the 3rd Repair Cafe, organized by the Guelph Tool Library. We had 3 volunteers who were helping with mending clothes, one jewelry repair volunteer, 2 computer repair volunteers, 8 volunteers who were helping fix household appliances and electronics and a number of volunteers to who helped with running the event. Approximately 70 visitors dropped by and more than 30 items where fixed including a couple of coffee machines, a record player, a lawnmower, a speaker, a coffee grinder, and much more. You can see more photos of the event here.

Here is an article about this event on Guelph Today.

This event was sponsored by the Meridian Credit Union, With the Grain and Na-Ha Thai’s Kitchen! Thanks to all of them and all of the volunteers for making this possible.

If you missed this event, don’t worry! There will be many more coming up and the next one will be on Saturday March 25th at St. George’s Angelican Church from 11am to 3pm, as part of the Resilience Festival. Visit our facebook event for more detail about it.

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Shape Your Tool Library!

random infographic edited

Our resident librarian is at it again!

Brandon is conducting an innovative new type of research to inform us about how the tool library can improve.

Would you like to do an information horizon interview???

Sound cool? It is! The whole process takes less than 30 minutes, it’s wicked fun, and your input will shape the next steps the tool library takes in growing Guelph’s sharing economy. All you have to do is email Brandon and express an interest. He’ll meet up with you during one of his tool library shifts or at a time of your choosing. We’ll only be collecting interviews for the next two or three weeks, so if you’d like to get involved don’t delay!

“Am I eligible to participate?” you ask. All you need to be is..

  • someone who has used a tool library at least once (and it doesn’t need to be Guelph’s)
  • an adult from a non-vulnerable population
  • willing to part with 30 minutes of your time for a VERY worthy cause!

So don’t delay and shoot Brandon and email to get more details.

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Special Libraries Exhibition @ UofT


I had the opportunity to showcase the Guelph Tool Library at my practicum student exhibition last week. The event also took place at the University of Toronto iSchool alongside the Special Libraries Canada conference also happening at that day. I spoke to dozens of people about the challenges and solutions we’d encountered in providing this service in Guelph, and got some amazing ideas about how to take things to the next level in the New Year.

Here is a link to the digital version of my poster presentation for those in library land who might be interested in reading it. This is the very same PDF that went out to about two dozen library professionals at the exhibition who signed up to receive it!

Feel free to email me if you have any questions.

–Brandon, Librarian @ Guelph Tool Library

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Dec 3rd Repair Cafe

P Copy

The second Repair Cafe (Santa’s workshop) took place on Dec 3rd at St James the Apostle Church from 9am to 1pm. We had more than 10 volunteer fixers and about 35 visitors. More than 25 items  were fixed which otherwise would have been thrown in the landfill. Visitors and volunteers had a great time and there was a great community feeling. This event was sponsored by Meridian Credit Union and lunch for our volunteers was provided by The Cornerstone, who we would like to thank! Also a huge thank you goes to all volunteers who made this event happen and visitors for their support!

You can see more photos of the event here.

Visit us at the next Repair Cafe on Feb 18th! And we are looking for more volunteers!

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A Reflection on Tool Pick Ups

First Donation

This has been a busy year for the newly formed Guelph Tool Library.  We have managed in a very short time period to put together an interesting selection of tools, set up our location (123 Woolwich Street), develop our website/database and begin lending out tools.

As our library is made up almost exclusively of donated tools,  I have had the opportunity to go out and meet many different people.  It has been an interesting an enjoyable experience meeting the many donors and hearing their stories about the tools and appliances they are giving us.  Some tools have come from people that are downsizing or moving away, others have come from families that are clearing out the estates of their family members.  Some people are just no longer using the tools and want them to go somewhere that they can be put to good use.

We found out quickly that their are lots of rakes floating around out their so we have a great collection of various sizes and shapes!  Some of the donations have been spectacular such as the almost new table saw donated in the spring and a propane smoker!  Some donations have been much smaller but all have been welcome and helped us build up our inventory of tools (we have over 200 in our database).

Susan Carey, another of the Coordinators of the Guelph Tool Library, has a great philosophy on our tools.  Susan says that “people don’t necessarily want a drill, they want a hole.”  Our goal is to facilitate our members getting their hole, or their garden roto-tiled, or their tomatoes crushed, and so on.  So we have drills, rototillers, and tomato mills among the many tools and appliances to lend out.

So please keep us in mind if you have some tools that you don’t use or are thinking about upgrading.  We even accept some broken tools as we have some community partners (JD Small Engines – and talented volunteers that can repair them.  I am looking forward to meeting many more or you and hearing your stories.

Submitted by John Dennis,

Guelph Tool Library Coordinator


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Adventures in Collection Development


One of the toughest things to decide on for a community-minded, volunteer-run library is a collection development policy. I say for “a community-minded, volunteer-run” library with reason. Authoring a collection development policy is relatively easy for a more institutionalized library; the collections development librarian takes a look at his/her budget and says, “We’re drawing the line at graphic novels!” And that, generally, is that. The decision is the domain of one person’s professional judgment, everyone trusts in that decision and, even if not everyone agrees 100%, operations go forward.

I’m discovering with the Guelph Tool Library, as I did with Out On The Shelf, that when collection development policy is the product of a committee, things get more complicated quickly. In many ways, having a limited budget becomes ones saving grace; what services the library can afford to provide (and a collection is just one of many services) given its available resources is often where discussions around collection development begin and end. People may be frustrated or disappointed at the end of collection development meetings (“Awwwe… You mean we can’t afford a 3D printer?”) but generally no one argues and everyone is able to accept the reality of the situation.

When managing the Out On The Shelf library, political concerns were more front and centre. For example, “Should we purchase more trans narratives for the collection even if trans folks make up a small percentage of our patrons?” Or, “Should we favor fiction over non-fiction?” Or (and here’s a big one), “Should we continue collecting anti-LGBTQ narratives for the archive even though we have such limited space?” In the end, Out On The Shelf often didn’t have much in the way of extra funds to make such targeted purchases (one day soon, though!), but after several discussions with volunteers I decided that, when the time to invest money ever comes, one of our collection development policies should probably read something like this:

Targeted acquisitions shall be made with a mind to increasing the number and quality of items available of interest to minority groups within the LGBTQ+ community slightly beyond their proportional representation within the community. This shall be done out of a recognition of the impacts of historical marginalization in society at large. Furthermore, this shall be done while maintaining the mind that completely equal balance of items in the collection among all minority groups, in terms of both number and quality, is neither necessary nor practical. In this way the Out On The Shelf library collection shall, in its small way, strive to expand the diversity of its own collection while maintaining a mind to the wants and needs of its patron base.

With the Guelph Tool Library, political concerns came into consideration as well, but the politics were several degrees less personal. We dealt with questions such as, “Do we make an active attempt to acquire more popular items, such as camping equipment, even though it does not promote a more sustainable food system, which is one of our primary mandates?” When that question came up, I suddenly felt like I was back in a traditional library. Every librarian struggles with questions such as, “Do I purchase more paperback bestsellers or invest in that nice, large-print, hardcover classics collection?”

As one of the earliest members of Out On The Shelf, I was more comfortable speaking about values and priorities. But as the newest member of the Guelph Tool Library team, I didn’t feel like I should be leading the discussion or speaking to the founding values of the organization. I decided that the best thing I could do was provide a neutral framework for the discussion informed by what I knew about collection development in other contexts. What better way to do that than with a snazzy diagram!


I developed the above chart to help visualize our challenge in terms of collection development. I explained that there would always be things we wanted to do that were beyond our resources, there would always be demands of the community that would be beyond our resources, there will be values and goals that don’t overlap with the needs of the community and vice versa. BUT there will be a space where they do overlap and we do have the resources to meet those needs. I explained that, while we can accomplish anything inside the box of our resources, we should aim for the space in the middle where our values and goals overlap with the needs and wants of the community; we should treat it as the “bullseye,” the most effective space for our collection development decisions to be made.

Once we all agreed on the validity of this decision model, it helped us make such decisions as a group neutrally, away from anyone’s personal values or opinions. We were able to arrive at conclusions such as, “Well… if camping equipment comes our way and we have the space to store it, then we won’t turn it away. But stuff like that should probably stay off of our official wish list.”

I was pleasantly pleased that this approach to authoring a collection development policy lead not to lists of “Thou Shalt” and “Thou Shalt Not”s but, seemingly without ever trying, it provided something much more useful, the adoption of a mental framework for discussion and decision-making that everyone involved could agree upon.

Note: working with these folks is never difficult! Things just went from smooth to smoother.       🙂

In conclusion, I look forward to the day when a used propane stove comes through the door as a donation and we can all roll our eyes in unison and find some room for it behind the newly purchased pressure cooker!

–Brandon, Librarian @ Guelph Tool Library

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It’s Different From Books

IMG  edited CellarDoorPress

img_0064_edited_cellardoorpressGreetings, all!

As the Guelph Tool Library’s one and only Librarian I felt the professional obligation to blog about my experiences setting up a library that was so different from any I’d previously managed –so different from most libraries managed throughout the history of librarianship.

All my previous experience was with books and media of some sort or another. For my day job I work at the Guelph Public Library. Previously I was instrumental in setting up and maintaining Out On The Shelf’s lending library. With books, DVDs, digital materials, and so forth it’s easy to line up your items –both physical and digital– like little toy soldiers and march them into your catalogue and onto your shelves in perfect order everytime. In fact, librarians kind of get off on it. With books one gets to feel a bit like the Napoleon of your little library world and take pride in knowing that everything is being perfectly presented to the public. With tools, not so much.

I came aboard the team late. For months my colleages Susan, John, and Saba had been doing the hard work of finding items for the collection and a space to house it. My first experience of the Guelph Tool Library was when they led me into a little room in the back of the Trafalgar Building which John figured out was, once upon a time, used to test the appliances once manufactured there. I saw literally hundreds of tools –hand pruners, frying pans, electric drills, weed wackers, and dozens upon dozens of items I couldn’t even put a name to.

My first desire to put everything in the entire room in one corner and then move it –item by item– onto the shelves as it was photographed and fully catalogued was obviously not practical. My second impulse to immediately barcode everything also had to be rethought –how do you stick a barcode on a cast iron frying pan or a ball joint tool?

For someone used to harvesting ISBNs and downloading MARC records to edit and neatly upload by the hundreds, this Tool Library project required something of paradigm shift for me. I needed to abandon my toy soldier expectations and enter the world of guerilla librarianship. In other words, it was going to be fun!

Instead of marching toy solders neatly across a field, I feel more like a squirrel gathering nuts. Go over there and snap a photo of that cool soldering kit. Now upload it. Now swing over there and go through that bucket of rakes to catalogue them all individually. Good, now head on over to the Cooking & Food shelves to etch item numbers on all the pots and pans to make checkout quicker. Then comb the internet to find an operating manual for that bandsaw. Got it! Now upload it and link it to the catalogue record. Someone just returned a food dehydrator with an important usage note. Better add that to the catalogue so the next person borrowing it has that information. Now I can do those website updates we decided upon at the last meeting.

For now, I will summarize my experience thus far by sharing my alternate title for this blog post: “How I Learned to Stop Marching Armies and Fell in Love With Chasing Nuts.”

“Squirrel!”     😉

–Brandon, Librarian @ Guelph Tool Library

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August 20, 2016 Repair Cafe

A man repairs a item

The first Guelph Repair Cafe was held on August 20th, 2016 at St James the Apostle church from 9 to 1. Volunteers helped fix broken and damaged clothes, jewelery, bikes, electrical appliances, wooden items, etc.

Article about this event on Guelph Today.

The Cafe also featured a Swap Table where participants brought items in good working order that they no longer needed and swaped them for something of equivalent value.

People also had the opportunity to learn more about the Guelph Tool Library which is currently accepting donations of gently used kitchen appliances, gardening tools, arts and crafts tool and hand tools.

Do you like fixing stuff? To volunteer for the next Repair Cafe email