South King Tool Library breaks ground in Federal Way

Tool library serving South King, North Pierce counties set to open by March 2019.

The idea of Do-It-Yourself projects meets the era of sharing with the new South King Tool Library, set to open in Federal Way by March 2019.

South King Tool Library aims to empower people of the community by providing access to resources, said Jeanette Jurgensen, board treasurer of SKTL.

“The purpose of the tool library is to share resources,” she said. “Some of that is physical like storing tools, or if you have a project you don’t want to purchase tools for, or sometimes it’s the sharing of education and knowledge.”

Operation of the tool library is similar to that of a traditional book library, Jurgensen said. Upon signing up for a membership with donation of a small annual fee, people may check out up to five tools for one week at a time.

The tool library is strongly donation-based when it comes to tools, volunteer staff and finances, she said.

People can pay as they are able to when it comes to memberships, Jurgensen said, although SKTL officials suggest a pricing structure of $40 per year donation for households, $30 for seniors and military, and $20 for low income.

“We won’t turn anyone away due to their inability to afford it,” she said, noting the library hopes to implement volunteer service programs to offset cost of memberships.

Located on the grounds of the Thornton F. McElroy Lodge in Federal Way, SKTL supplies residents in South King and North Pierce counties with their tool needs.

The library itself will be housed in revamped cargo containers with a fully enclosed deck to provide storage. Many of the building construction materials were donated and the repurposing of cargo containers helps the sustainability aspect, she said.

“Recycled and reused when possible, when it makes sense, is what we’re aiming for,” Jurgensen said.

The nonprofit is sponsored by Tilth Alliance, yet the building portion consists of mostly grants, pro bono work from SKL Architects, donations from PCS Structural Engineering, TOTE Maritime, Trex: Composite Decking and many others.

In spring of 2014, Tom Watson from the King County Ecoconsumer Program approached Jurgensen with the project idea.

“He said ‘King County would really like to see a tool library in an underserved population such as South King County and if anybody can make this happen, you can,’” Jurgensen recalled.

As the project nears completion after four-and-a-half years in the making, Watson originally told her the project should take about $10,000 and six months to complete, she said with a laugh.

In addition to checking out tools, SKTL will have other services based on the interests and expertise of the volunteers, such as repair cafes, one-on-one tool training, classes on living a minimalist lifestyle, or other workshops for the home, garden and more.

“We want to help people feel empowered while helping them extend the life of their home, beautify their yard and reduce waste,” Jurgensen said.

A major concept of the tool library is the sharing of how to reuse and repair items, said Larry Todd, director of South King Tool Library.

“Passing that knowledge from one individual who may be passionate about it to someone who would like to learn about it,” he said. “I think that is a real key element in everything that we do by helping each other become wiser about use of materials … and not throwing everything away.”

Older generations may see people of today living a disposable lifestyle, Jurgensen said. So the idea of having a space to fix rather than discard is powerful.

“That whole act of sharing is one of the most powerful, underwritten statements of a community tool library — sharing knowledge, sharing resources, sharing expertise, and capturing that with our volunteers,” Todd said.

SKTL is set to open within the next three months and is a learning process, he said, but the team is also looking to connect with the community to voice what they’d like to see at the library.

“We need to build partnerships that support what the community needs and what they discuss as being needed, not what we think is needed, but what they say is needed,” Todd said.

The lending service and trust in the community is a high-road issue, Todd said.

“[We] also have high faith in people and their commitment to service,” he said. “We’re sensitive to that issue, we’ll want our tools to come back but we’re also looking at it as a service to the community … We’re cautiously optimistic.“

Tool libraries have been around since the 1970s and have built a history of integrity, she said.

“Other tool libraries have found that when things get damaged or broken, people are so honest about it,” she said. “Because they want to see [the tool library] succeed and they want it to be here.”

A lending library software program developed by a tool library called myTurn will aid in keeping track of the tools and permanent barcodes will be placed on each item of the inventory.

Todd and Jurgensen both agreed they are excited for this next phase and couldn’t have done this without the help of sponsors, community partners and the community.

“They’ve heard me say for four-and-a-half years, ‘This is coming soon,’” she said. “So I’m really excited to tell the community ‘Thank you for being patient, but it really is coming soon.’”

The library will be open Wednesdays from 3-7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9-2 p.m at 1700 S. 340th St. For more information, visit southkingtools.org.

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