How It All Began
In fall 2016 at a meeting of Sustainable Gabriola, a loose network of people actively pursuing means of creating a more resilient community on the island, Kim Kasasian proposed a Fix-It Fair. Having organized this kind of neighbours-helping-neighbours event on Bowen Island, at which handypersons volunteer to repair common household items brought in by fellow islanders, Kim was looking for support to do the same on Gabriola.
The response to the first one, held at the Commons in January 2017, was terrific — many talented people offered their expertise for an afternoon of problem-solving, and many others were delighted to get something fixed (for free!) instead of throwing it away. Subsequent Fix-It Fairs in 2017, 2018, and 2019 have expanded the resource pool of “fixers” and heightened community awareness of fresh avenues to reduce, re-use, and recycle.
From this core group of volunteers, ideas began to develop for a tool library — the logical next step in reducing waste and sharing expertise. What kinds of problems could be alleviated by providing ready access to both tools and information? The comment we hear most often is, “What a good idea!”
Internet research provided the groundwork, and the Victoria and Vancouver Tool Libraries offered support and advice. The Gabriola Sounder newspaper helped spread the word, and when the Gabriola branch of VIRL (the book library) offered to host a tool donation day, we were overwhelmed with tools — old, new, tried and true.
And the word continued to spread. Over the next year, people began offering their assistance to help bring the idea to fruition: guiding the application for incorporation as a non-profit society; advising on insurance and fundraising; clarifying the pros and cons of various co-op and non-profit models; establishing society records, book-keeping, and a business account at the credit union; setting up email accounts, a Facebook page, and this website; designing and drawing plans for the tool shed; learning how to use tool library software, and how to identify, sort, and inventory the donated tools.
Many of these tasks are ongoing, and — with the help of many volunteers — the tool library opened officially on October 27, 2018.
The Shed Project: together we built it!
After the initial response rush of tool donations, we urgently needed a home for them, and a place for members to gather to exchange information and expertise: a physical space to operate the tool library — somewhere central, secure, modest in size and cost, with wifi and electricity available. In November 2017, the Gabriola Tool Library (GTL) reached an agreement with The Gabriola Commons for a site to build our shed.
We knew we had to start small, so the shed is only 10 square meters, wood-framed, insulated and metal roofed, and with a welcoming outdoor area where people can gather to access the library and exchange advice about DIY projects.
Our campaign for a building fund began in fall 2017. Enthusiastic letters of support were provided by Gabriola Island Recycling Organization (GIRO), People for a Healthy Community (PHC), the Gabriola Commons Foundation, Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL), and Arbutus Home Hardware.
With budget and letters in hand, we applied successfully to local organizations for funding. The Gabriola Lions Club and Mid-Island Co-op both offered grant money, and the Village Food Market approved GTL as a benefactor of their Community Card program; we reached our goal of $2,000 in April 2018, thanks to the contributions by Gabriola shoppers. A grant from Coastal Community Credit Union through their Building Healthier Communities Fund came through in June 2018, enabling us to complete this initial phase of the tool library.
As we didn’t really know how to build a shed, we appealed again to the community for some guidance. Tony Bowles came up with some great architectural drawings for the concept. Then Ian Harrison, professional carpenter and builder, volunteered to take it from concept to reality. He spent several weeks without pay, leading our volunteers in constructing the shed, from foundation prep to roofing, siding, and front steps. The result is better than we could ever have hoped, and the community seems to agree.
Now began the “library” part of the project — inside the shed. David Vincent, of Sleepdeprived Computer Techs, donated two computers and a laser printer, and (most important) his expertise. Danny Henslowe and Mel Matthies have guided the creation of this website, Mary Mitchell and Michell Sevigny offered their expertise in developing the software to make it accessible for the community; David Vincent established the essential wifi connection and maintains the email accounts for the library. Rob Guinevan, Chris Devroomen, Wayne Wotten, Tom Keane, Peter Hellenius, Gin Korba and many other individuals with expertise in tools have helped assess and repair the donated tools so that they are safe for use by novice and expert alike. Kim Kasasian continues to add beauty to the site — and to maintain her original vision by co-ordinating the popular Fix-it Fairs.
The Library of Tools
Making the tools available and accessible to as many people as possible, is our mandate. This requires a lot of work from a lot of people, and participation on many levels. We welcome new volunteers at any time, whatever skills and time they may have to offer.
Keeping the doors open on a regular basis is vital: Saturdays 10 to 2 and Tuesdays 5 – 7 p.m. every week, all year, volunteers with the Front Line Crew greet people, register new members, check tools out and in, keep the inventory up to date, and answer questions from passersby who want to know how a tool library works. Our aim is to have two people available for each two-hour shift — one who knows tools and their uses, and one who can operate the software and keep the records straight. There’s always something to be done: assess new donations, repair damaged items, fix the leak in the door sill, or sweep up the sawdust. They all also keep the Wish List: if we don’t have an item that someone wants to borrow, they add it to the always changing list to expand our inventory. In 2019, the Gabriola Lions responded to our request for help with a grant to acquire new tools to fill in some of the gaps between donations and desires.
The Tool Pool are essential to the upkeep of the library: people who know tools, who can help maintain the inventory, or who enjoy answering borrowers’ questions about a project, or who are willing to share their expertise through workshops, demonstrations, or mentoring.
Our need for space to store donations while they are being assessed, repaired, photographed, and added to the inventory or otherwise distributed, has only increased with time. In the spring of 2019, Pat and Lynn Smith for their offer to share their work space with the GTL: an offer we deeply appreciate.
We are profoundly grateful to all who have responded to our many requests for support. Without you, the Gabriola Tool Library would not exist.