The Handmade Community of Vancouver's Tool Library

Wedged between the businesses on Commercial Street — just off Commercial Drive — sits a humble non-profit, whose community of handy and dedicated supporters has kept it running for over eleven years.

The Vancouver Tool Library is exactly what it sounds like. It's a co-operative social-enterprise that, for the low price of an annual membership, allows locals to rent out tools of every kind for as long as they need.

“This place means a lot to me,” said Reed Schrad, president of the Tool Library’s board of directors. “Instead of contributing to a lot of mass-consumption — going to Home Depot and buying every little thing that you need — you get to share the high-quality tools that we have. And you get to learn from other people.”

Volunteers like Reed and many others may come looking for a drill, a rake, or a bike wrench, but they stay for the learning and sharing.

Angel Dayls-Fine became the Library’s newest volunteer on the same day she became a member. She stopped by in September, hoping to borrow a stud-finder, and was drawn to the idea of a deeper connection to her home of East Vancouver while gathering some new DIY skills. 

“Seemed like a good little trade off,” said Angel, who turned up on a day off to lend a hand at the VTL’s last yard-sale of the year.

The Vancouver Tool Library runs on the good will of its many members, donors and volunteers.

Every so often the little shop fills with too many donated tools, and it’s an opportunity for the VTL to open its doors, attract new members from the neighbourhood, and sell some well-loved tools to raise funds.

“It always amazes me how much people are willing to give, of their time and energy and attention,” said Laine Hughes. As the shop’s one employee, Laine has his hands full with an event like the yard-sale. As the Library’s General Manager, he knows what it takes to keep the doors open.

“When it started, about eleven years ago, I think there was a real appetite for what we do,” said Laine. “And I think things have changed a lot. With COVID and everything, it’s been quite a feat that a non-profit, such as us, such as we are, could have a space in this city.”

Events like the yard-sale, the free craft nights on the first Friday of every month, and a variety of hand-made workshops, Laine said, are integral to growing the VTL. 

Matt Ellies volunteers at the shop, sits on the board of directors, and lends his time facilitating workshops in leather-craft and wood-carving. He said that sharing skills at those events benefits the community as much as it does the Library.

More than just a class for carving a spoon, or making a leather tote, Matt said, “it’s knowledge translation for stuff that isn’t readily available. In person, and provided at an accessible price.”

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There’s little wonder as to why the Vancouver Tool Library matters so much to the people that keep it running.

“It’s so welcoming and cozy and warm,” said Angel.

“It’s a model of what the future could look like,” said Reed. 

“It means everything,” said Laine. “It’s just so amazing that it exists right now in this time.”