How many of us really need our expensive and seldom-used tools?
A new Northeast Minneapolis business is using the library model to get residents to share their tools, from power washers to lawn mowers.
The Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library will soon open below Diamonds Coffee Shoppe in the Thorp Building at 1618 Central Ave NE.
“We’re thrilled to be opening Minnesota’s first community tool lending library,” said Director Thomas Ebert in a statement. “Many tools are purchased for a specific project and then never used again, taking up space in people’s homes. The Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library provides access to a wide inventory of tools without the burden of ownership.”
The non-profit tool library has hundreds of both new and used tools for members who are working on home improvement projects or who want to cross some things off their to-do lists. “One project at a time, we can make our community even stronger,” reads its website.
Ebert co-founded the library with Zach Wefel, a fellow Windom Park Citizens in Action board member, after living in Portland where tool libraries are plentiful. The neighborhood association provided the initial funds and a Seattle-based tool library provided its own tool database program and tips on starting out.
The opening comes after many similar libraries have sprouted up in communities throughout the United States and Canada. Other neighborhood groups have already reached out to the Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library in hopes of opening their own.
“We aim for this to be the one of the best tool libraries in the country,” Ebert said. “I really feel like we’re in position to make a shining example, not only for communities within the Twin Cities metro… but then also for communities throughout the country.”
Though the “sharing economy” is growing in popularity in several industries and inspired the library, Ebert’s professional background in sustainability is also a driver to get people to start sharing tools. For each tool a member borrows, that’s less plastic, metal and other resources going into something they would otherwise buy.
“It’s a very direct way to minimize our impact on the earth,” he said.
Part of the library’s mission is to educate the community on using tools and learning how to make things. Ebert said the library will host the first of many workshops during Art-A-Whirl where community members will learn how to make raised garden beds.
“We’re encouraging people to invest in their homes, invest in their communities and relearn some of the do-it-yourself skillsets that a large lot of us have lost touch with,” he said.
Ebert said that they will also have an open shop, a workspace available for renters, artists or those who need a little extra room to work. The emphasis on craft, or as Ebert says, “working-class sensibility, DIY pragmatism,” is a clear throwback to Northeast Minneapolis’ history of manufacturing spaces, but it’s also adapting to the area’s burgeoning artist culture.
“We very much want to tap into the artist community and really have them see this as an opportunity for the them to have a workspace… and to have access to tools they won’t otherwise be able to buy,” he said.
To join the library, members just need to pay an annual fee of $55, sign a liability waiver and agree to the library’s safety protocol. The library doesn’t require members live in Northeast Minneapolis and members can check out tools for up to one week. Late fees and replacements costs can also apply.
The library will host a grand opening on Saturday, May 2 from 4 to 7 p.m. with complimentary pints of Fair State Brewing beer.