Three exisitng tool libraries in Portland meet the need to borrow tools. Now SW needs one.

PHOTO BY BILL GALLAGHER - Jason Bergstrom of Hillsdale thinks the time is right to create a tool library for SW Portland.
He discussed his plans over lunch at John's Market.Anyone who has ever abandoned or just not started a project for the lack of the right tools will appreciate what Jason Bergstrom of Hillsdale is up to these days.

He believes SW Portland should have its own tool library. There's one in SE, North and NE Portland. But only people who can prove they live in one of those neighborhoods can borrow tools.

Those libraries are staffed and run by volunteers and only open a few days a week. Saturday, obviously, is the busiest day for borrowing anything from axes to wrenches. The SE Portland tool library has tools available in eleven different categories including gardening tools. In the Carpentry and Woodworking category alone there are 150 tools listed.

So far Bergstrom has posted his idea on Nextdoor and held a meeting for those who are interested at the Lucky Lab on Capitol Highway. He's seen enough interest to move forward and thinks this can happen by summer of 2019.

This is his take on a tool library for SW Portland as part of the so-called sharing economy. "I'd like to see people do more to share. We've become such a consumerist economy. But not everyone needs to buy every tool to become successful. They end up buying storage units to store all those tools they bought for one project and then never used again," he said.

Bergstrom, who works for Siemens (formerly Mentor Graphics) in Wilsonville and lives in Hillsdale, has a checklist for this start up.

"Space is the biggest concern. That's one we need to address asap. Finding the right space will drive a lot of other factors.

"It would have to be non-commercial space since we're not looking to make a lot of money from donations. We intend to start with 200 square feet but it would be full immediately so 500 square feet would be a better size at the start. That way you could put up shelving and have space for a desk.

"The space needs to be heated and secure. It would be nice to have an internet connection," he said.

He has his eye on the Sears Armory on Multnomah Boulevard but no one with the City of Portland is returning his calls. "I'd really like to get a hold of someone to talk about the Sears building. It's currently a Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM) site. So I went to the PBEM website. It says there are plans for the Armory. But you can't find the plans," he said.

Another big issue is securing liability insurance. And recruiting a staff.

"You need volunteers to staff it for at least two days a week and Saturday at the beginning."

One thing he's not worried about is stocking those shelves with tools.

"I myself want to donate some. Others have already chimed in on Nextdoor saying the same thing, which is that they want to downsize and get rid of some tools. When I moved from North Portland back to Hillsdale I gave a bunch of tools to the tool library there."

One thing he'd like to find out is which tools people want to borrow. "What do people want? At some point I'm going to set up a tool pool on Nextdoor to see what people are looking for. It doesn't make sense to set up a library with tools that people don't need. It's also good to see if people are looking for really big sutff," he said.

One thing the tool library will not lend is anything with a motor. And tools will not be loaned out for commercial projects.

His next step is to set up a Google group for people interested in helping make a SW tool library a reality.

As to why he's undertaking what's sure to be a time-consuming project in his spare time on his own dime he says, "My parents were heavily into volunteering. They worked a lot but they also spent their spare time volunteering. So I feel badly for living in Portland some 26 years and not getting into volunteering until about five years ago. This will probably be the last volunteer project I have time for."

Bergstrom's website for this project is a work in progress but you can check it out at:

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