A few weeks ago, through work, I was introduced to Piper Watson and John Shea, two local artists who live in the Greenmount West neighborhood. In the summer of 2012, they took a 10,000-mile motorcycle trip across America, visiting tool libraries. Though not a new concept, tool libraries have been catching on -- Wikipedia lists 47 in the U.S., and dozens in other countries.
Research complete, they put together some grant money and opened the Station North Tool Library this past April. They took a first-floor space in Area 405, a bustling studio space and gallery at 405 East Oliver Street, right around the corner from the new Design High School and up the street from the City Arts building. Their operation has been growing steadily ever since, with over two hundred members and a swelling collection of tools. Most have been donated by members; others come from estate sales or educational organizations. Once cleaned up, repaired, and put on the floor, they are available to members for check-out one week at a time.
The SNTL has no rigid pricing structure, instead asking members to donate $1 for every $1,000 they make in yearly income. This sliding scale makes sure the resources are fairly available to everyone. While most of their members come from a roughly 20-block radius, they have a number from farther reaches of the city and a few from Baltimore County.
Tool libraries tap into an emerging trend -- millenial's abandonment of ownership society. The recession is one driving factor, as young folks crushed by student debt and unable to get good jobs are delaying home ownership. Car ownership is declining amongst that cohort as well, replaced in part by other options, from MegaBus to ZipCar to Uber. Living in small apartments with limited storage space and lacking in disposable income, tool libraries, makerspaces, and co-working arrangements make a lot of sense. Members get the benefits of owning a vast collection of tools, without having to trouble themselves with storage, maintenance, or acquisition costs.
So, as John said to me in an email: "Come on down. We got the stuff you like."
Yeah, man, for sure. Keep up the good work --