BAYFIELD – Putting a wrench in the system isn’t always a bad thing. At Pine River Library, in fact, it’s considered downright innovative.
The erstwhile books-only lender is now hammering away at its latest concept. One could even call it ground-breaking. Before summer begins it plans to have a tool-lending library.
That’s right, tools. As in wrenches and drills and circular saws. But really, the plan is to go beyond those basics that the typical homeowner already has.
The target is more the obscure types of tools that people buy, use once, then shove into a tool drawer or push into a corner, never to be seen or used again. Tools like hole saws for drilling doorknob openings. Tools for the garden, such as compost aerators, one of which Pine River Library already has.
A tool drive began earlier this month, and the collection is in its infancy. Simply stated, they still need lots more tools. But there’s time – the goal is to have things in place by early June.
Haven’t visited Pine River Library, ever or lately? A quick tour of the building and the grounds shows the numerous ways that innovation has become the norm.
First, you find several employees eager to talk about how their place measures up. They’ll tell you it was recently named the country’s best small library by Library Journal. And they’ll tout their many recent changes and projects, including the budding tool collection.
“It’s very exciting,” says Director Amy Dodson, who came to Bayfield from California for the job about a year ago. “We’re risk-takers here.”
Remember the Dewey Decimal System? You won’t find it here. Books are shelved according to subject, in alphabetical order. Judy Poe, the library’s development coordinator, says it’s a much easier way to find things. If you’re looking for, say, a book on mammals, just find the bookcase with “animals,” then the alphabetized subcategory “mammals.” Sure, some people know that’s 599.1 under Melvil Dewey’s 1876 system, but I think we can agree those people are really, um, gifted.
More changes are underway: Dodson is pushing for a bakeware-lending library. Bayfield Parks and Rec wants to partner in a bicycle-lending library. Pine River Library already has a technology-lending program that includes e-readers, laptops, MP3 players and GPS units.
Venture outside, and you’ll find a 24-bed community garden, christened in October. There’s a greenhouse in one corner and a 15-foot by 15-foot straw bale shed in another corner. This artsy shed, built by about 30 volunteers over six weekends, is the pride of the garden.
And not far away, there’s another shed – older, not so elegant, a gaping wound on one side. “Poor, pitiful thing,” Dodson says.
“This is our NAS-ty shed,” Poe says. “You can see why we want to put a mural on it. It’s awful.”
Right now, it’s the black sheep of the family. But soon it will get that mural, courtesy of Brian Simmonds of 2611Art in Durango, and a handyman will patch it up.
The community garden was actually the impetus for the tool library. Poe explains that they figured if they bought tools for the garden, the tools might just sit around for long stretches. Why not share them with the public?
“They circulate just like books. Circulating tools just makes sense,” Dodson says.
Tool libraries are catching on, but they’re still few and far between. Apparently, the only other in Colorado that’s associated with a public library is in Aurora.
It’s a great idea for a homeowner who doesn’t want to buy a tool, but one might anticipate a backlash from those wanting to sell a tool. One would be wrong.
“I think it’s a great idea,” says Bill Robertson, sales manager at Lewis True Value Mercantile, which is just down the street from Pine River Library.
His thinking on the tool library is that homeowners who don’t have the means to buy the tool they need to do a project will now be able to get that tool.
“More likely, they’ll do projects, and they’ll come into my store,” he says. “I want people buying materials from me.”
So it sounds like everyone digs this idea. What’s not to like?
Now’s your chance to divest yourself of those annoying once-used tools cluttering your shed. Hand pruners, tile nippers, conduit benders, stud finders (That always makes the ladies giggle) – they’re all needed. See the full list at www.prlibrary.org.
The library is all about providing tools for learning, Dodson says, whether it’s books or DVDs or belt sanders, or the new mobile kitchen unit that’s part of the “living library” project that includes the garden.
And somewhere down the line, there may be a musical-instrument library. Some people will like the sound of that.
email@example.com. John Peel writes a weekly human-interest column.