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13 minutes lifespan


13 minutes lifespan

Tool Library

Belfast | Northern Ireland


The idea is simple: instead of buying a new tool every time you need to do some maintenance or repair something, and then keep it in your shed to collect dust, join a Tool Library, for example in Belfast, and choose among the hundreds of tools available there. At the Belfast Tool Library you pay a membership fee of 25 pounds per year and that allows you to borrow up to 6 tools every week. Soon, there will also be a workshop for members to access bigger machines on the spot. It's not only about borrowing, though. Neal Campbell started the Belfast Tool Library for several reasons. The first of them is to give people access to tools, so they can develop their DIY skills and passions and repair at least small items themselves, instead of paying somebody to do it or throwing them away for good. Although members of the Belfast Tool Library are supposed to have at least basic skills and they declare they know how to use a tool the moment they borrow it, Tool Library volunteers are always happy to share their know-how and explain things. And this is the second important point: creating the opportunity for learning and development. There are no stupid questions and all of them are approached with kindness. With kindness volunteers also take back damaged tools – they know it's part of the process and they are not worried if something gets broken on the way. The third point is environmental: it has been said the typical drill is used on average 13 minutes in its lifetime! Whether the number is correct or not, the point remains valid. Many of us own tools that lay unused in some closet waiting for that one time you will finally decide to fix that yielding shelf. Instead of manufacturing many quasi-useless drills, why not share a community drill, use it rather 13 weeks per year, and save the resources needed for producing unused tools? And the resources to buy them. Belfast Tool Library calculated that during the two years of operation their 315 members saved around 50.000 pounds by avoiding shopping for tools. And speaking about members – the last point is community. The Belfast Tool Library is not meant to be just a borrow point but rather a community center. In the near future they plan to open several workshops for members and non-members to learn basic DIY skills, they also build bonds with other community organizations, trying to support for example refugees or asylum seekers with free membership or local action groups with tools needed for a clean-up day or building a community garden.

The whole idea is a perfect example of a sharing economy. 95-97% of the tools in the library were donated by people who didn't need them anymore (that's where your sewing machine or other unused tools can find a better place to be!). Belfast Tool Library volunteers check them, repair if needed and place them on shelves making them available to all members. If there are tools which people don't usually borrow, like hammers, screwdrivers or saws, they are donated to theTools for Solidarity, an organization which sends tools to people in Tanzania or Malawi, where they are very needed. At the moment, all people involved in running the Belfast Tool Library are volunteers, although they hope in the future to hire part-time staff which will help with speeding up the scale-up process. With the 20 volunteers they have now they are able to open for members twice a week (Tuesdays from 6 to 8 pm and Saturdays from 10 am to 1 pm). Around half of the volunteers (as much as half of the members) are female, which helps to break the stereotype of tools being a male business. Some volunteers take care of repairs, others help with borrowing or promotion. They give their time and energy freely, believing in the idea and the values the Belfast Tool Library is based upon, as they were proposed by Neal Campbell, freelance photographer and artist, member of the Vault Artist Studios collective, in which premises the Belfast Tool Library operates today. DIY, community building and sharing are big passions for him and the other seven members of the board, who bring diverse skills to the project. And that's what is needed to change the world. As Neal said, when you want to start something, surround yourself with people with different skills, you don't need to work alone. And appreciate the power of volunteering. Yet, don't put too much pressure on yourself, as volunteering is a key factor, it also makes things go slow at times and that's ok. Don't be afraid, failure can be a very powerful motivator. If you have an idea to bring positive change to the world, just go for it!



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