SouthEast PortlandTool Library
Like the public library... but for tools

SEPTL: How it began

open sign in saturated colorsA reminisce by SEPTL’s founder, Steve Couche…

The SE Portland Tool Library began with simple question to Tim O’Neal, at that time the SE Uplift Sustainability Coordinator:

Why doesn’t SE Portland have a tool lending library like exists in N and NE Portland.

Tim’s answer:

Because no one has made the effort to take the effort to get one going.

Thus it began.

So in June of 2009 I took on that task, getting the word out through SE Uplift and articles in the Sellwood Bee and SE Examiner. Of course the first few meetings did not bring many people to the table, but from that small group grew many efforts that proved critical to our success.

Two people said they would check with some neighborhood Church’s – and thus Sister Sara was contacted at St. David’s. So now we had a home.

We had several people volunteer to form an outreach group which contacted Neighborhood Associations and tabled at various community activities and locations like the Division/Clinton Street Fair, and gave brief presentations at Neighborhood Association and Neighborhood Sustainability meetings.

We also approached neighborhood businesses and explained what we were doing, and gathered raffle prizes from them for a raffle at our pre-opening celebration and open house.

As all this was going on:

  • We recruited – from our growing volunteer base – people to improve the lighting in our new space at St. Davids, adding a double door for better flow of tools and people in and out.
  • We recruited a volunteer crew to build shelves made from a large stock of free materials donated by ReBuilding Center in NE Portland.
  • Used surplus tools were donated by the NEPTL, by a few local businesses, but especially by people who read about us in the two neighborhood newspapers and The Oregonian.
  • People stepped forward to be our Volunteer Coordinators, and we had a person volunteer to develop our database system based on the system originating in the NPTL, transferred to the NEPTL, and then to us.
  • We had one volunteer develop our website.

By May of 2010 we were ready to open our doors. Whew.

Since then our tools and our members have grown in numbers, our Board of Directors was developed, along with the various legal documents required of such an endeavor as ours, and we created completely new software that is now used by several Tool Libraries here and nationwide.

We now have almost 2000 members, with 1,200 tools, and make about 8,000 loans each year.

All this was accomplished by our volunteers. Indeed the very soul of our operation has been the volunteers. Everything we do is done by them.

We are succeeding

Our goal from the start was to develop community. To share freely with neighbors. To foster sustainable practices in SE Portland. It is my feeling that to a very large and gratifying degree, we are succeeding in meeting those challenges.

-Steve Couche
August, 2012