New tool library a DIY dream come true
Elia Bruno, a senior at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, sees the new HNL Tool Library as a way to help people build things they need and “build community” at the sametime.
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Elia Bruno, a senior at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, sees the new HNL Tool Library as a way to help people build things they need and “build community” at the same time.
IF YOU GO
>> What: HNL Tool Library
>> Where: 200 Keawe St., inside Re-use Hawaii
>> Hours: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays and 12:30-4:30 p.m. Wednesdays
>> More information: hnltoollibrary.org
The 22-year-old came up with the idea for a tool-sharing hub after he and his roommates moved into a house with a big backyard and he wanted to create an edible garden with raised beds, compost bins and water catchment.
“I knew that hundreds of other people had the tools that I needed just sitting in the garage, not used for months if not years,” Bruno explained. “I saw the struggle a lot of people go through, students and low-income people who can’t afford to buy something to use just once or twice.”
A sustainability studies major, the Sicilian native also knows how much energy and resources go into manufacturing tools and shipping them around the world. So he thought, “why not share them?”
The HNL Tool Library that he and other volunteers launched late last month in Kakaako already boasts more than 250 pieces of equipment, mostly donated. There are automotive, carpentry and gardening tools, plus metalworking and plumbing equipment — whatever is needed for do-it-yourself projects, even if it is just fixing a leaky faucet.
The project runs on the passion of its volunteers, including development assistant Kristen Jamieson, who just graduated from UH-Manoa, and Bethany Brown, its creative director. Brown, who works for an online company, says the Tool Library has opened up new possibilities in her life.
“I like to do things myself but I never actually had the resources,” she said. “This hub gives me a connection to empower myself to create stuff. I don’t want to have to go to Wal-Mart or Target to buy a table when I can come to Re-use Hawaii and the Tool Library and borrow a tool and build a table. And I actually will love that table a lot more.”
HNL Tool Library was invited to set up shop inside the cavernous warehouse on Keawe Street that houses Re-use Hawaii, a kindred-spirit nonprofit that salvages building materials — from redwood planks to kitchen sinks — and offers them to the public at low prices.
To use the Tool Library, patrons must become members, and can check out equipment for up to a week. Annual memberships range from $35 to $75 — which is less than the cost of renting some tools for a day, advocates point out. So far, 30 people have signed up as members, with more on the way.
“I love the tool library!” said Randi Jeung, who works at the Waimanalo Health Center and stopped by on Saturday. “It fits right in to the Re-use Hawaii setting. I will definitely become a member and a return user.”
Like any self-respecting library, the tool library has an online catalog at hnltoollibrary.org that patrons can browse before coming in to pick up what they want. Instead of books, it showcases circular saws, electric hedge trimmers and ratchet wrenches, along with buffers, bike tools and basic hammers.
“It’s a very value-oriented way to get access to a bunch of tools that you would otherwise have to spend hundreds of dollars on,” said Pearl City resident Matt Asada, who visited Saturday. “It’s a great way to go and get what you need for a project, put it back and share the cost among all the other users of the tool library.”
The tool hub depends entirely on volunteers, so hours are limited to Wednesdays, 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. More volunteers are needed to keep it running. Organizers hope to offer classes and perhaps space where members work on projects using stationary machinery.
“This is a project that we are doing for the community, but it will need the community to take care of it as well,” said Bruno, who first came to Hawaii as an exchange student at Kaiser High School.
The library got rolling with a $600 micro-grant from HNL Soup, which stages events where patrons pay $12 for dinner and hear pitches for projects, then vote to designate the proceeds to the best.
“When I went to Soup, the tool library was kind of a tiny seed in my head,” Bruno said. “From Soup, it felt like the seed was already sprouting and setting up roots in the ground. Everybody came up to me saying they wanted to help and connect me with other resources.”
The Tool Library also has support from the Hawaii Community Foundation, the University of Hawaii Office of Sustainability and Re-use Hawaii.
“I think of the tool library as just really the starting grounds for a much bigger movement,” Bruno said. “It’s an example of sharing and helping each other rather than competing with each other. Especially with Hawaii being so isolated, we need to rely on our own neighbors.”