Ottawa’s first tool library is now under construction

By Ted Simpson  –

Libraries in Ottawa are being redefined; they’re no longer just about books. Westboro resident Bettina Vollmerhausen is launching the city’s first Tool Library.

The idea of a Tool Library is quite simple, a small membership fee is paid and in return members can borrow any of the tools on hand for a week at a time. The concept is already in place in most major Canadian cities; Halifax, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver already have established Tool Libraries.

Bettina Vollmerhausen is building the first Tool Library in Ottawa.
Photo by Ted Simpson
Bettina Vollmerhausen is building the first Tool Library in Ottawa.
Photo by Ted Simpson

“I’m a handy person for sure, I love fixing and doing my own things,” says Vollmerhausen. When her now business partner, Frederic Sune, brought up the idea over lunch one day, she immediately went into action planning a Tool Library for Ottawa.

“When you live in a small community, it’s easy to go to a neighbour and borrow something like a ladder or a saw, but in a big city you often don’t know anyone around you, so having a spot where you can borrow tools can be amazing,” says Vollmerhausen.

Having a great location is key to Vollmerhausen’s plan for the Tool Library. “We want to be close to public transit and have parking available, if you come and get a skill saw, you can’t just swing that in a backpack,” she says.

The Ottawa Tool Library has recently secured a future spot in the Arts Court building at 2 Daly Avenue. The location is ideal for Vollmerhausen’s target users: downtown apartment dwellers and university students.

The Tool Library is already gaining support among the local community. It took home a win at the most recent Soup Ottawa event on November 26. Soup Ottawa is a quarterly event where people come to eat soup, and listen to presentations about various community projects. At the end of the evening, attendees vote on the project they would most like to support. The crowd of over 120 people voted in favour of the Tool Library, netting Vollmerhausen over $1300 in funding.

“I think our project spoke to people from many walks of life,” says Vollmerhausen of the Soup crowd. “It’s easy to relate to, having that one tool that you bought years ago and now sits in your basement, why not share it and give other people access to it.”

With a location set and some initial buzz around the project spreading, Vollmerhausen is aiming to get the Tool Library up and running by the spring.

“We’re hoping that everything will fall into place in the next three months, when people are starting their spring projects or gardening tools are needed, hopefully we can be there for them,” she says.

What she really needs, in the meantime, are tools. A few donations have started to trickle in. The the first power tool donation was an electric sander.

But much more is needed, so Vollmerhausen is putting the call out to anyone who might have some under-appreciated tools living in the basement or backyard shed. Any donation, big or small, goes to building a community resource that provides access to tools regardless of income. In addition to materials, volunteer hours are needed to make this happen. Vollmerhausen has a core group of four members and is looking for volunteers to help with tool drives, setting up and staffing the Library.

Anyone interested in donating tools, or their time, is encouraged to go to ottawatoollibrary.com, and join the mailing list.

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