Two friends, Ryan Dyment and Lawrence Alvarez, had been actively involved in activism for environmental and economic causes but wanted to do something more. Searching for an idea that would create local change in communities, they discovered a Sharing Economy project of Tool Sharing.
The first Tool Library started in 1979 in Berkley, California and since then over 40 Tool Libraries have launched across North America. While the idea is not original, there had never been a Tool Library in the city of Toronto, making an opportunity for local change. Getting things started, in 2012 the founders received their first grant from the Centre for Social Innovation
and started a non-profit arm called the Institute for a Resource Based Economy (IRBE). The mission of IRBE is to launch projects that challenge the current economic model with resource sharing initiatives and related education with an emphasis on local community empowerment. To learn more about IRBE, read our Mission and Vision statement.
Shortly after launching the non-profit…
they found their first location in Parkdale to house all the tools they wanted to share. The Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre (PARC), located at 1499 Queen Street West, became a partner offering space in their basement. With renovations and lots of volunteers, they transformed the basement into a vibrant Tool Sharing community hub. But before they opened the doors in March 2012, a local newspaper published the story on the Toronto Tool Library and the news went viral across CBC News, Toronto Star, Torontoist, Reddit and more. Soon after, tool donations were pouring in to help build the inventory and new members were signing up every day.
The success of the first Tool Library led them to quickly expand. They found a second location on the Danforth (1803 Danforth East) with a 1900 sq. feet basement space. More than a Tool Library, this space is also the first east-end “Makerspace” fit with a wood shop, laser cutter, 3D printers and lots of workshops, as well as community gatherings. Jumping at the opportunity, the team launched a crowdfund campaign with the Centre for Social Innovation Catalyst platform to raise the funds for rent and renovations. The support was beyond expectations, reaching above the goal of $16,000 and with the highest number of supporters on the crowdfund platform. Following, in October 2013 they opened their doors again — this time to the new east-end Makerspace.
Since then our team has expanded with seven staff members and seven board members, as well as dozens of volunteers that help make the Tool Library operate. We have received grants from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Ontario Catapult Microloan, as well as being awarded the Live Green Toronto Award as the “Greenest Group” in 2014. Corporate donations have supported our work with tool donations, including Canadian Tire, Home Depot, MEC & more.
To date, we have over 2,200 members and we have loaned over 25,000 tools to our communities. Since the buzz hit about the Toronto Tool Library, more Tool Sharing projects have opened around the world (including Calgary, Halifax, Belgium and more). For us, we aim to expand the Tool Library into condos and co-op buildings in the city, to share resources in more neighbourhoods. We have also helped incubate other sharing resource projects including the Kitchen Library and the Seed Library.