Changing Things Up

10.08.20 01:04 AM Comment(s) By Tim Willison

New Features at Toronto Tool Library

A visit to the Toronto Tool Library today is a little different than it used to be before pandemic.

When you visit the Tool Library today, you'll find the same tools, but behind a desk staffed by helpful people that will help fetch the things you need for you. Pandemic has prompted this change. What isn't obvious is that tools coming in from being loaned go into a 72 hour quarantine to ensure the elimination of viral activity before they can be handed out to the next person. This is really the only practical way to ensure safety in the times we are living in.

In reality, this change isn't so bad. In fact it has a lot of practical benefits beyond ensuring compliance with C19 recommendations.

When I was in college, I worked in the Audio/Visual department to help pay my way through school. Students would come in from all of the media programs looking for gear. In time, I got to know them and their projects, whether they be radio, television or "new media" based. I could recommend gear, and pass along helpful information shared with me by other borrowing students. And it came to the point that students began to ask me for recommendations on others to work with on their projects, given how familiar I and the other denizens of the AV service desk became. We were the hub of many productions, much more than simply a place to pick up and drop off equipment.

In these first days back from lockdown, a similar feeling is emerging at the desk of the Toronto Tool Library. Rather than feeling shut out, visitors have welcomed a friendly and attentive person with a good knowledge of tools fetching them what they need. This is different from the self-serve experience of the past, but most people have taken to it, and like my experiences in the AV department at college, a side-benefit has been the opportunity to create connections between members. An example that springs to mind is a recent one where a question came in from our new help-desk email about concrete mixing. It was outside of my experience, but I was able to recall that Richard, one of our members had experience in that area and was able to pass the question along.

I can't help thinking that this new experience is going to ultimately prove good for everyone.

And there are other practical benefits. With the walk-in and browse method of offering up tools, things need to be arranged in a much larger footprint. Anyone who shops would understand that an effective retail display is far from an efficient inventory-stacking method. When the priority is display, things need to be laid out for easy viewing - most store-fronts are like this. Perhaps the most famous is the Apple store where each item is easily viewed and given ample floor-space. Behind the scenes, the devices are packed for efficiency, piled tightly into racks that would make for a very poor user experience were any of the public allowed behind the scenes.

By packing for efficiency, more tools can be kept in a smaller footprint. And the user-experience comes not from helping yourself, but from having a good interaction with a willing assistant. It's a win all around.

Of course the only way to know if it is for you is to try it out yourself! With memberships starting at $55 per year, you can visit the Toronto Tool Library over and over again. If you do, please say hello! I'd love to hear about your project, and maybe I'll learn something I can pass along to help someone else.

Tim Willison

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