A Network of Tool Libraries?

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One of the biggest challenges throughout the development of the Charlottetown Tool Library (CTL) so far has been the internal structure of the organisation. While it is clear that co-directors, Daniel Cousins and David Stonham share a common vision, differences in the paths that brought the two of them together have led to numerous conceptual approaches to the CTL.

Over the past year, Daniel has put a lot of effort into building a maker community in Charlottetown. He hosts monthly maker meets and worked with the City of Charlottetown to deliver the first Fix-it Fair earlier this March. Daniel sees the CTL as a valuable first step towards opening a Makerspace in the city.

David began to develop plans for a Charlottetown Tool Library independently of Daniel, following a period volunteering at the Halifax Tool Library, during a weekend-long training course in sustainability leadership. Encouraged to collaborate with other people to bring his idea to life, David connected with Daniel through the Charlottetown Makerspace facebook page and the two of them have been collaborating on the CTL ever since.

As a result of these different trajectories coming into the project, the internal structure has been somewhat fluid up until now. Are we a Makerspace running a Tool Library? Is this a Tool Library that will morph into a Makerspace once the membership is large enough? Do the two cater to different audiences and complement the objectives of the other?

These questions don’t seem too important until you factor in the legal nature of some of the core functions of the Tool Library. Without incorporating as an official organisation it is difficult to create membership contracts, sign leases on operating space, purchase insurance and banking plans, and resolve issues of personal liability.

Time has come to formalise the organisation in order to make progress on our plan to open in early June, but this next step is an important milestone, and potentially a costly one too. There are a number of options available to us and the choice we make could shape the future of resource libraries on PEI.

Many Tool Libraries incorporate as a stand-alone entity; the Halifax Tool Library is a registered non-profit society, and the Vancouver Tool Library is a member co-op. However other models of operation also exist. The Toronto Tool Library, for example, is officially operated by the Institute for a Resource Based Economy (IRBE), a registered non-profit organisation that exists to advocate for a post-capitalist economy and incubate a variety of projects, including a number of successful tool libraries and maker-spaces in Toronto.

The woodshop in the east-end location of Toronto Tool Library

Since the CTL is the first tool library on PEI, we have a unique opportunity to make it easier for future communities to establish their own operations. Incorporation as a non-profit can cost upwards of $2000 once legal fees are accounted for. We are therefore discussing the practicality of incorporating as an association, similar to the IRBE, anticipating an expanding network of resource libraries and makerspaces across the Island in the coming years. A single governing entity that has an elected board from across the Island could just be the answer we are searching for.

If you have any thoughts to share with us on our collective journey through this process, or if this is something that you’d like to be involved in, please get in touch. Otherwise, look out for a Makerspace, a Tool Library, or both coming to a neighbourhood near you.

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