One of the first questions that I am asked about the Guelph Tool Library (GTL) is “what tools do you have?”. That is usually followed up by “where do they come from?”.
The first question is easy to answer, “more than you might expect!”. We have over 800 items in inventory and about 300 more smaller accessories. We have everything from table saws and rototillers to kitchen appliances and craft items. Smaller accessories such as individual drill bits and saw blades usually don’t make it into the inventory system. The best way to find out what we have is to go to our MyTurn site or just come in and look around.
The second question is a bit more complicated but speaks to how we operate the Guelph Tool Library. One of our goals is to keep items out of the landfill, so most of our items are secondhand and have been donated. We average one or two donations a week which could be anything from a single item to a car load of tools. We estimate that about 90% of our inventory is donated.
The source of donations is almost as varied as the types of donations. We have people donate tools that they used for a special project and now no longer need. After all, you can only tile your bathroom so many times! Also, we receive items from people that are moving away or downsizing to a smaller residence. Large donations often come from estates with families and friends pleased to know that a loved ones tools are going to be used and cherished. We do pick ups and some of our most popular items have come from estate donations.
When a donation arrives at the GTL a few things happen with it. Each donation is examined for defects, tested, and if we decide to loan it out, put into inventory. Not everything that comes to us goes into inventory. We have a list of items that we want and items that we don’t accept posted on our website and social media.
Also, before putting something into our inventory we consider if the item is portable, will it stand up to lots of use, and if it is in safe condition. We do a lot of replacement of power cords which often come to us damaged and taped up. One of our biggest challenges is maintaining older tools as parts are often no longer available. Most of this work is done on Thursday nights which is our fixing night.
The balance of the donations are purchased. We spend about $2000 a year on new tools which are purchased locally if possible. The money comes from memberships, grants, and special campaigns. Some of the items that have been purchased include our button maker, cider press, and Cricut printer.
We also use the feedback that we get from our members to decide what we will purchase. If someone asks us about a tool we don’t have, we will consider purchasing it. We recently purchased an Oscillating Multi Tool after such a request.
Finally, the management of our tools would not be possible without our wonderful volunteers. They are the ones collecting, fixing, and putting our items into the inventory system. To get an item from a “donation” to be “ready to loan” usually takes about 30 minutes. If you are interested in helping us out please consider sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or dropping by to talk with a librarian.
John Dennis, Tool Fixer and GTL Coordinator (Jan 6, 2020)