The Guelph Tool Library is helping the community stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic with new virtual programming.
“Our whole mission is surrounded in a world where people receive joy in sharing. But without being able to share physically, we still want to be able to maintain that connection. It’s so important right now,” says Stephanie Clarke, sustainability coordinator at the Guelph Tool Library.
“Lending is the new spending” at the Guelph Tool Library and in normal circumstances, members borrow from a full inventory of tools including those used in food preparation and preservation, gardening, renovations and arts.
The non-profit organization seeks to build community resilience by sharing knowledge, skills and resources with various projects including repair cafes, workshops and training sessions.
Since closing its doors at Tytler Public School in March due to the pandemic, Clarke was determined to have the tool library continue with sharing and teaching hands-on programs, virtually.
The new on-line programming includes a virtual craft night, on-line backyard caring workshops, question and answer sessions with repair café volunteers and on-line contests.
“This was so important to me personally. I felt so lost at the beginning of all of this because so much of my life is about planning programs for the tool library,” Clarke said.
“I looked at other online programs and I thought that this is something that we just had to do to stay connected to everyone.”
On a typical Monday night, the Guelph Tool Library used to offer a craft night, drop-in sewing or another type of hands-on skillshare.
Now, the program is virtual with a version of craft night taking place every Monday over Zoom. (link is on Facebook)
“When we have our physical space, our craft nights give members and non-members an opportunity to use our tools and a creative space to work in,” Clarke said.
“So, we thought why not invite people to gather whatever tools and supplies they have at home and they can then share what they’ve made. The projects, so far, have been drastically different and we hope others can be inspired when they see them.”
Participants are encouraged to share project advice and provide demonstrations. Some have already shared their skills in basket weaving, mosaic art and sock darning.
The Backyard Caring Program Workshop Series would usually be held Wednesday nights and it has now been moved to Instagram Live which includes a demonstration and a question and answer period afterwards.
The one-hour on-line program includes topics such as starting seedlings, building your own composter and designing an outdoor garden space. The workshops are hosted by @backyardcaring on Instagram Live at 7 pm every Wednesday.
Backyard Caring Coordinator, Meredith Sweeney hopes to build a local community of gardeners who can access customized gardening information.
“I’ve also been joining Meredith and she has been helping me with starting seeds, composting and plotting out my own yard. She will also be providing tours of her own garden during the workshops,” Clarke says.
Also, with the cancellations of two scheduled repair cafes, volunteer fixers have offered their expertise in a weekly livestream program every Thursday at 7 p.m. on Instagram Live.
The program is hosted by @gtoollibrary and has already covered clothing repairs, knife and tool sharpening, and bicycle maintenance.
Viewers are invited to ask questions live or in advance and have them answered during the program.
“Our fixers show their talents and offer advice on how to fix with minimal tools. For example, if you don’t have a bike repair kit, they will share what you can use instead, right from your own toolbox at home,” Clarke said.
“So far, the response has been really great. We keep the livestreams up for 24 hours afterwards and we also take questions after the program as well.”
Clothing repair volunteers have also been busy making caps and gowns for medical workers during the pandemic.
“We’ve made over 1,000 scrub caps for Guelph General Hospital and now we are making them for paramedics and for workers in care homes,” Clarke said.
Masks are also being made for patients, the general public and for vulnerable populations including those who are homeless.
Since going virtual, The Guelph Tool Library has also featured games and contests such as “guess that tool” on its social media accounts.
“We hope to continue our programming on-line and even build upon them. We want to encourage people to see what they can do with limited supplies,” Clarke says.
“We are all sharing in this complicated struggle right now and it’s so important that we stay connected.”