By Ethan Engberg
A new kind of library will open in St. Paul on Saturday, March 4, one with power saws, wrenches and wheelbarrows.
The St. Paul Tool Library, 755 N. Prior Ave., will be the nonprofit Minnesota Tool Library’s second location in the Twin Cities. The first, the Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library, opened in 2015.
The tool libraries allow members to use on-site tools in a common shop space and take skill-building workshops on using power and hand tools, garden tools and ladders. Users can browse the tool inventories online, then stop in to check out items for one week, with the option to renew. The St. Paul Tool Library’s inventory will be posted on opening day at www.mntoollibrary.org. The Minnesota Tool Library’s mission is to “cultivate a more resilient and equitable community and reduce waste by empowering residents with access to tools, training and workspaces.”
The idea for the St. Paul location came about in 2015, when St. Paul resident John Bailey contacted the Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library about bringing the nonprofit to his city. Bailey, who now chairs the St. Paul library’s advisory board, says it is a good fit for the area.
“I have known about tool libraries for a long time, and they make so much sense,” Bailey says. “It seemed crazy that St. Paul didn’t have one.”
Early in 2016, Bailey and others starting working with the Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library to formalize plans for a second site, search for space and secure start-up funding. The first $5,000 raised was matched by the Knight Foundation, and further fundraising is now under way.
The St. Paul Tool Library is in the same building as Can Can Wonderland, just south of the yard waste site on Pierce Butler Road. For $55 per year, members get tool checkout privileges, as well as discounts on studio shop classes. The 1,800-square-foot space has open shelving and wall storage, movable workbenches, and a children’s area. A tool drive on Feb. 11 added 300 items to the growing collection. Volunteers have been working diligently to organize, take inventory and prepare the space. The grand opening on March 4 will run 4:30-7:30 p.m. with music, food and libations.
With the growth of the sharing economy, the tool library is a model for resource sharing and waste reduction. “I think for many people in St. Paul, it can help them save money by buying less tools and as importantly, teach new skills,” Bailey says.
You can learn more about the St. Paul Tool Library on its Facebook page, St. Paul Tool Library.
Ethan Engberg is an intern with Transition Town ASAP. A Macalester sophomore, he is focusing on environmental studies and education.