Tool libraries could make us all DIY heroes

Remember the A-Team? The 1980s kids show had a familiar formula: innocent villagers fall prey to bad guys, A-Team show up all confident, get into trouble, retreat to a garage, make a tank, overcome bad guys, job done.

As adults, home improvement work can follow a similar formula, just without the A-Team: innocent couple take on manual job all confident, get into trouble, retreat to manuals, give up and learn to live under the tyranny of bad DIY.

There is a solution which can help people with their DIY projects and use resources more efficiently. They are called tool libraries.

The concept needs little explanation. They work much like a conventional library but instead of books you can take out a drill or a saw to complete that book shelf you keep talking about. 

And in addition to providing the tools these libraries also dispense advice and help people to get the most from their DIY projects.

Open hours are a hive of activity not dissimilar to the feel-good scene when the A-Team make a hovercraft out of wood panels and curtains.

So the benefits of tool libraries are clear they bring communities together, they provide tools to people who need them and they cut down on the need for many people to purchase their own tools.

However there is a down side and it is that despite their many benefits they often need government support – which has been hard to find.

Take Tournevie, a tool library which was set up in Brussels. They gathered more than €40,000 worth of high quality tools so that the people of Brussels didn’t have to. 

Unfortunately they have been reliant on some government support through subsidised rental space. This has seen the project move in the past.

Tournevie co-founder Olivier Beys explains:

“Governments need to do more than simply provide investor security by securing contracts, public order etc. They should also provide security for citizen initiatives, enabling them to experiment and take action. The societal return on investment is huge. Towns where people feel empowered, where there is trust in one another and where its people are a partner, not just a beneficiary of the government, simply have more potential to thrive beyond mere financial prosperity than those where this trust and partnerships are lacking.

“They should make available Triple A locations: attractive, accessible and affordable places.. Ideally you’d have one in each neighbourhood or village, and several hubs in a territory.”