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Where volunteers become tooligans

June 3rd, 2019 by The Tool Librarians

It’s Volunteers’ Week; a time to celebrate and say thank you to all volunteers around the UK, and here in the Edinburgh Tool Library (ETL) we didn’t want to miss this chance to share with everyone how amazing our volunteers are. Or as we like to call them, our Tooligans.

To get an idea of how much Tooligan power helps ETL, you should know that more than 2400 people have signed up as members since we started and more than 850 are currently active, borrowing a tool every 5 minutes we’re open. With just 40 regular Tooligans, commiting a few hours a week, with others joining the action as and when they are needed, the volunteer team is at the core of ETL activities and running. We are grateful for them every day of the year (although it is nice to have a special occasion to say it louder than usual!!!). Volunteers run the borrowing sessions, support members at the open workshops, repair tools, update the database, help with community builds and so many other things to help Edinburgh to make the most of its Tool Library.

On the team you can find women and men of all ages and walks of life. From those in their teenage years to those in their not-so-teenage years, locals, or people hailing from overseas, expert woodworkers, DIY fans or newbies who previously thought routers were only things that gave you the internet. Some have been volunteering since we opened,  showing their commitment to ETL and their shared values but also demonstrating that it is a valuable and enjoyable experience for them – they keep coming back! Many Tooligans are relatively new, but the number of volunteer submissions growing steadily is a sign that word of sharing is spreading and taking root in our community.

Over the last year the Tooligans have, amongst many other things:

  • Led the borrowing sessions at the depot and the police box in Leith
  • Supported members in over 100 open sessions at the Custom Lane workshop
  • Helped design and refit the Portobello workshop
  • Supported the running of Porty workshop and tool library twice a week
  • Taught and assisted in over 40 evening classes
  • Undertaken volunteer build weekends for the Piershill Residents Association and the Duddingston Conservation Society, building outdoor furniture, bird tables, potting sheds and vegetable shop!

But, why they do it? Many come to make new friends and to feel part of a community of like minded people with shared values, both social and environmental. Some enjoy the opportunity to learn new skills from fellow volunteers or members.  For some people volunteering is a window to connect with the world in a different way, allowing them to overcome their struggles with mental health through helping others. And there is always the act of sharing: sharing experiences, sharing knowledge, sharing spaces, sharing tools, sharing moments, sharing laughs and fun.

As for myself, I learned about ETL a year ago after deciding that I should give back to the community that has welcomed me.  I visited Volunteer Edinburgh, where they helped me to find the right place to start my volunteering journey. On my first meeting with ETL and hearing about the philosophy and values of the organisation, I knew I was already one of them, even if my experience with drills and hammers was quite limited at the time. And so my Tooligan story began. I know it is not going to be a short one!

Whatever the reason, every contribution is invaluable and without it ETL would not be possible. If you are around one of our locations this Volunteer’s Week, don’t forget to show your appreciation to our Tooligans. You can simply say thanks or leave a few words in the Volunteer Thanks Books that you will see appearing in our workshops and depot. Volunteers are essential to keep improving your community, helping you with your DIY, and keeping your Tool Library with its doors wide open for everyone.

Mariana Berdun
ETL Volunteer