Patrick Robinson
Cutting a branch instead of a ribbon got the Sustainable West Seattle Tool Library off to a good start. From left, Bill Reiswig, Micah Summers, Gene Homicki, Gary Lichtenstein, Steve Tracy, Patrick Dunn, Christy True, and Kristina Hahs.

Sustainable West Seattle Tool lending library opens

The Sustainable West Seattle Tool Library got a sustainable kick off with the cutting of a branch instead of the traditional ribbon on Saturday June 12.
The library, some 9 months in the making, is located at the north end of the South Seattle Community College property, adjacent to the Chinese Garden at 6000 16th Avenue SW.

Gary Lichtenstein Vice President of Sustainable West Seattle said, "We're creating a really valuable service for the community of West Seattle. Since it's from Sustainable West Seattle it's going be something that will be around and that people will be part of for a long time. This is our fervent hope. We worked well as a team, there were really no egos."

They had 6 to 8 steady volunteers to get the project going and maintained but others helped along the way. They have collected close to 400 tools so far but are always seeking new, or in good condition tools. Some non working tools can be repaired but those will be evaluated on a case by case basis if you are considering a donation. The inventory includes, "Screwdrivers, welders, compressors and we got a 40 foot ladder donated," said Lichtenstein, but they are looking for an electric power washer.

Patrick Dunn, Treasurer for the group said, "It really was a nice cast of folks who were able to stick with this thing, through all the hoops we had to jump through just for the simple act of handing someone a hammer. There was a lot of insurance, and lease and financing issues that you had to do. It's also a great opportunity to use a completely under utilized resource that exists in our community. Tools that are just sitting in people's garage's gathering dust. They come on down here we dust them off and sharpen them up and them to work in the community. It's kind of producing something from nothing and it's really great to be involved in something like that."

The group has discussed plans to be part of other organization's efforts in the community that might require tools. "To the effect that we can with our supply we're hoping to do that. Say an organization gets a hundred volunteers to do a street cleaning or a garden cleanup," said Dunn, "It's incredibly inefficient to go buy tools for that so we could supply them the tools for an effort like that."

The Tool Library was initially funded by a grant from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. "We really appreciate the cooperation of Seattle Government, with the Community College as well," said Lichtenstein.

The idea came from Kate Kaemerle last August and gained momentum over the last few months as more people got involved. Tool libraries exist elsewhere of course including one in Seattle's Phinney Ridge neighborhood but other cities. "There's been one in Berkely California for 30 years, there's one in North Portland that loans out 5000 tools a year and as we expand South Seattle Community College will allow us to use more space," explained Lichtenstein.

The tools are all organized and lending will be controlled through a custom inventory management tool built by Gene Homicki of Objective Consulting Inc. It includes searching and browsing for tools, check in/check out, managing memberships and it's built to be used by multiple libraries so as other groups form they will have a chance to buy the software for their use. They are still setting pricing and plan to be fair.

LocalTools.org is where you can see the inventory online. In a few weeks you will be able to reserve your tool online. The group is still working out hold times and other lending issues.

Sustainable West Seattle thanked West Seattle Nursery, South Seattle Community College, Community Harvest of South Seattle, Junction True Value Hardware, McLendon's Hardware, Urban Land Army, Garden Cycles, Objective Consulting Inc. and hundreds of tool donors.

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