Maine Tool Library to open in Bayside

Free home goods
By MATT DODGE  |  August 14, 2014

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The Maine Tool Library wants to be Portland’s communal tool shed; a place where hobbyists, beginners, and pros can come to trade skills and help skirt the steep hardware costs of many home and garden projects.

“The library could be up and running by the end of the summer,” says organizing team member Hazel Onsrud.

The group has found a discounted space in East Bayside, identified a list of must-have tools, and studied up on liability insurance, but it all hinges on the web-based fundraising campaign now in its last week.

“People vote everyday on all sorts of things just by spending their money, so the people have to decide if they want a tool-lending library,” says Onsrud.

With a deadline looming the project has only raised a little more than one-third of its $13,000 goal on crowd-funding website Indiegogo, leaving organizers to hope for a big last minute push to help fund New England’s first large-sale tool library.

Onsrud says the $13,000 would help the Tool Library to get on its feet by covering the cost of basic tool acquisition, liability insurance, legal aid, rent, and office supplies.

“It’s mostly going towards quality tools,” she says. “You can’t just open up a tool-lending library that is based solely on donated tools because you wouldn’t have the breadth or quality necessary to [retain] membership,” says Onsrud.

The insurance policy required to lend out things like power tools and ladders is “not insurmountable, but much more complicated than a regular library,” according to Onsrud. “It’s a lot harder to injure yourself with a book,” she says.

The library would be a volunteer-based effort based in East Bayside and would be open four hours once a week, during which time members could rent and return tools and connect with one another to share tips and project ideas. It would stock a catalog of basic home tools for home and garden projects, as well as niche items like a cider press, copper cooling coils for home-brewers, and high-pressure canning equipment.

“That sort of thing you might use once a year and then keep in the basement, those are the tools we will be trying to stock,” says Onsrud.

The only limits include gas-powered tools and ladders above a certain height, and members will have to provide basic proof of identity as a possible deposit on premium items.

“Even if people feel like using tools is something that makes them nervous, this is their opportunity to actually give it a shot,” says Ian Johnson, a member of the working group and a professional carpenter. Johnson says the Library would be equally useful to beginners and professionals.

“You can learn the skills without having to go buy something, and even if you are skilled, there are still tools you don’t have—like a post hole-digger you might use to put a fence in your backyard.”

Like a typical library, the project would be open to the idea of adjusting its acquisitions to meet the demands of its members. Naturally in Portland that might include a mushroom inoculation tool that allows one to inject spores into a rotted log and cultivate their own fungi at home, says Onsrud.

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