Published May 30, 2018
Let’s assume you’ve just bought a new hairdryer. It works perfectly until, two weeks later, it stops working all of a sudden. You get angry, and you‘re tempted to just throw it away—but stop right there! Very soon, there’ll be a much better option: become part of Reykjavík’s first tool library.
Anna Carolina Worthington de Matos is a craftsman by trade and trained in conservation and restoration of historical buildings and objects. While living in London, she made surfboards as a hobby and hoped she would be able to continue doing that when she moved to Iceland. But she was hit by the harsh economic reality. “When I left London, I sold everything I had which included a lot of tools,” she says. “Then as soon as I arrived, I was looking to buy tools and they were ridiculously expensive—something like 10,000 ISK per day for a hand sander.”
As she looked for a solution, one of her friends suggested to her that she could just open a tool library. “I did a technological course for women entrepreneurs in Iceland in December,“ Anna remembers. “That’s when I started creating the idea of a tool library.”
When Anna is not thinking about tools, she is making chocolate at Omnom. “I got the job there because I sent them an email where I offered them to make them Brazilian truffles—if they offer me an interview,” Anna laughs. “They offered me an interview, I made them truffles, and I got the job.”
Going all Robin Hood
So how does a tool library work? There are two main options: you can buy either a “tool newbie” membership that gives you access to tools for a shorter period of time, or you can buy a “tool pro” membership which allows you to borrow more expensive tools for a longer period of time. Since the goal of a tool library is to make tools available for as many people as possible, there will be a third option: the so-called “Robin Hood” membership. This will enable you to get a tool pro membership for yourself, but also to donate a membership to someone in the community who cannot afford it themselves.
Even though it won’t be possible to rent a tool without buying a membership, the price will be much lower than renting tools in other places. “You sign up a contract with me that says that you’re going to give back the tools the same condition you got them in,” Anna explains. “If you break them, bring them back and we’ll fix them.” Any profit will go directly into lowering membership costs, buying better tools and fixing the ones that are broken.
Linear vs. Circular Economy
“We’re trying to stop this whole world that we have going on of just throwing things away that can be fixed,” Anna explains. Instead of buying new things whenever something breaks, the repair café, which will be part of the tool library, will focus on fixing broken things and re-using them—creating a so-called “circular economy”.
“We’re trying to create a community where people can share their skills,” Anna continues. “At repair cafés, people get together and repair stuff that’s broken, like toasters and hairdryers. We can also sew some clothes that have holes in them. Since we do it together, we’ll benefit from each other’s skills.”
Growing together, one tool per person
Right now, Reykjavík Tool Library is trying to raise money through crowdfunding. If it is successful, the tool library will be able to afford a bigger space and will host workshops on crafting. “It will be a place where people can just come and use the space to create,” Anna says. “If they want to do some work but they don’t have the place to do it, they can just come here, break some wood, make a mess and not have to be too concerned about it.”
A fundraising gig will be held at the DIY venue R6013 on July 28th. The entrance fee is one tool per person. “We’re also gonna have a donation box for the bands, you can give them some money if you think they deserve it. And you give us a tool,” Anna explains. “A DIY venue, music and tools—it’s perfect.”
A room full of tools
Anna also went to visit the Toronto Tool Libraries, which—in her opinion—are some of the best examples out there. “They opened three tool libraries in five years,” she says. “It’s amazing. They have donations coming in on a daily basis to the point that they sent me a box full of tools last week.”
Further donations, mostly from private citizens, have also been collected. “My room looks like a tool shed,” Anna chuckles. “I have to move the tools elsewhere to be able to sit down.”
After months of preparation, the tool library is finally set to open in early August in Grandi—Reykjavík’s fast-developing ex-industrial harbour area. The aim is to build a community that is based on sharing, while also minimising waste. “The more we share, the more we have,” Anna smiles.