MN Tool Library.

November 19, 2020; KSTP-TV (St. Paul, MN)

The Minnesota Tool Library in the Twin Cities, one of several “libraries of things,” does just what you think it would—it loans tools and provides a space to build stuff. Here’s how they describe themselves:

The Minnesota Tool Library is a member-based, volunteer-driven nonprofit that offers our community Access Over Ownership. We believe you don’t need to own costly tools that clutter cupboards, basements and garages…it’s a waste of space, money, and resources that could be better utilized by building in community. Instead, MTL Members enjoy consistent, low-cost access to the tools we need, through our shared library. It’s as simple as checking out a book—and our inventory is vast! Moreover, we engage each other to expand our collective skill set, offering both formal classes and informal mentoring and project advice. Everyone from novice to skilled craftsperson is welcome—we’ll help you along the way. Whether you’re looking to tackle some home-improvement tasks, enjoy a hobby, build a business, or try that DIY/Pinterest project—we have the tools and shop space to set your dreams free.

With so many working from home and lacking excuses for not fixing that busted door, we’re sure the library was well used. But in these times of community need, that effort was nice but insufficient. Now, volunteers are building desks out of plywood so that the children in grades K-6 for whom they are destined can decorate them as they wish.

Kate Hersey, the library’s executive director, explains that the organization got a grant through the CARES program in St. Paul to purchase the materials to make 500 desks.

“So, we bought about 125 sheets of plywood,” volunteer Deb Johnson says. “They can make it bright pink or bright green, put flowers or anything they want on it, put their names on it, and they can use it forever.”

“Having a place to call their own that brings a little more normalcy back to school and makes that exciting again, it’s really important, especially for little kids,” Hersey says.

In just two days, the program has received 136 requests.

The kids may not be the only ones learning, either. “We’re really hoping that anyone who has those building skills or anyone who wants to learn those building skills can come in and join us,” Hersey says.

If the prospect of building desks in a group makes anyone nervous, you can also just take your project home.—Ruth McCambridge