Engine of More: Make Tool Libraries Now
Hackerspaces usually contain tools. Most of the time those tools are supposed to stay inside the hackerspace. I strongly advocate, though, for a tool library. An entirely different selection of tools specifically managed and made available to be taken away and used by members elsewhere.
Who are hackerspaces for? Shared workspace and shared tools can be for people who’d prefer to work in a collaborative environment rather than in their own workshop of course, but primarily they are for people who don’t have their own tools and their own workspace. Having a good, robust process to make this possible is a goal that I have for the hackerspaces of tomorrow. But why?
Owning a house for someone who doesn’t already own one is very hard now. When I came out of University in 1999 it was possible to get a mortgage of something like 105% of the value of the home you were buying, no deposit needed. In 2008, as I’m sure we all know, this bubble burst, house values actually fell by around 13%. The crisis was caused by irresponsible lending dressed up as guaranteed return. The banks were bailed out and as a result very strict controls were put on mortgages, deposits grew and of course house prices started to rise again. The average house in the UK now costs £279k (2015). This data taken from the Office of National Statistics. Along with student loans costs, younger adults today have a very different world to the one I faced on graduation just 20 years ago.
In my city tool hire shops are not doing well. I’ve seen HSS tool hire shops consolidate and close. Thank fully some reporting shows that car ownership amongst the same generation is also dropping. One can only speculate what impact self-driving cars might have over the next 10 to 20 years on ownership and shape and look of our cities.
If you’ve been into a big-box DIY store lately (there aren’t so many of those left now either) then you might have noticed that the quality of affordable tools like Black & Decker and those made by Stanley (actually the same company) has dropped off considerably in just the last few years. Other brands are sold such as Ryobi, De Walt (same as Stanley/Black & Decker I think) as well as BOSCH and Makita. There is of course the PRO and MacAllister lines of tooling too. I’d speculate that tool ownership isn’t especially common among non-house owning millennials who don’t drive cars. When they do need tools, the best option is to buy the cheapest tool available like a PRO from a big-box store. That’s certainly what I did as a youngster.
I’d prefer to see in the cities and other communities, a tool library. A service where I can check out a good quality Makita drill driver or a Festool circular plunge saw with guide rail. I’d like to see the resources to keep these tools well maintained and information on how to use them safely.
A common cry I hear when I’ve spoken about this sort of project before, is confusion between tools that belong in the hackerspace and tools for the tool library. Note. These ARE NOT THE SAME TOOLS, but they act as a service for members and the wider community to borrow rather than buy. Communities that can have shared access to good quality tooling and support are much more likely to engage in making and building.
A good example of a tool library service is the Edinburgh Tool Library.
Today’s thumbnail is “a messy sink for equipment only” at STEAMHouse in Digbeth, Birmingham.