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On the grand opening of Halifax Tool Library’s new location, Tristan Cleveland wants to say thank you

Five years after Metro's columnist and his friends dreamed up the idea, the Halifax Tool Library is moving into a new location.

Tristan Cleveland, now Metro columnist, then Halifax Tool Library co-director, poses for a photo at the library's Almon Street location in 2016.

Jeff Harper/Metro

Tristan Cleveland, now Metro columnist, then Halifax Tool Library co-director, poses for a photo at the library's Almon Street location in 2016.

The grand opening for the Halifax Tool Library’s new space this Saturday comes, for me, with one massive feeling: complete, unmitigated gratitude.

Five years ago, I sat around a table with a few neighbourhood-minded people and talked about how cool it would be to create a place to share tools. That project at first succeeded, but then, after thousands of hours of work, three years in, it nearly collapsed.

I want to tell you a beautiful thing. We live in a community where a whole new set of volunteers stepped in, picked up the weight, and are now accomplishing everything we envisioned at that table. I don’t have enough ways to say thank you.

The idea behind a tool library is simple. The city is full of basements cluttered with unused tools, so no one should be prevented from building cool things for lack of them.

But we pictured more than just a place to borrow tools. We wanted a space for people to hang out and teach each other how to build things, where it feels like a real community.

And we weren’t alone. The people in this city are so supportive, in one month of crowdfunding, we raised $10,000. In no time, we had a tight group of dedicated volunteers. I remember a specific day when multiple people dropped by just to say hi and see how they could help. It was working.

But then, it wasn’t. After three years, many of the people who started the project had left the city or burnt out. Our tiny 200-square-foot space had become overcrowded with tools. The space was unpleasant to be in and was pushing away volunteers. And our membership fees weren’t keeping up with costs.

Our little passion project was about to fall apart. I was afraid I would fall apart with it.

And it was really just one thing that saved us: an architect named Clay Radcliffe offered to volunteer.

Let me give you a sense of what his leadership has accomplished. With some 30 volunteers, the Tool Library is keeping its doors open five days a week—and believe me, that’s not easy. At Veith House, the organization now has 1000 square feet to play with. A massive chunk is for workstations, so people who don’t have space at home can come in and use the tools there. Even better, they can teach each other how. The organization is thriving.

But it’s thriving, in part, because Clay is putting in over 30 hours of work a week. I bet there are a few people in this city who can do for Clay some of what Clay did for us: help carry that weight so volunteering stays a joy.

The organization needs a tool manager, tool librarians, fixers, and now, I’m excited to say, workshop managers. They have such an abundance of tools that they actually don’t need more, unless you have something on their website’s wish list—which is awesome.

And most of all, you can become a member and use the tools to build great things. Let’s make these volunteers proud.

I asked another Tool Library co-founder, Neil Bailey, who now lives in Winnipeg, what this success feels like for him: “Of course it happened that way. Halifax is full of inspired people. That they have gotten as far as we hoped just reminds me that the city is amazing.”


The new location's grand opening:

Halifax Tool Library

Veith House, 3115 Veith St.

Saturday Oct. 21, 1 to 4 p.m.

More information here.

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