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Lending Library of Things: PVD Things opens in Olneyville

PVD Things exterior at grand opening, Oct 23, 2022. (Photo: Michael Bilow)
Dillon Fagan of PVD Things at grand opening, Oct 23, 2022. (Photo: Michael Bilow)

PVD Things held its grand opening on Sun, Oct 23, at its new space at 12 Library Ct in Olneyville. The multi-room facility was open for tours, and free hot dogs (with vegetarian options) were being served from a grill.

“We are a non-profit co-operative tool-lending library, and what that means is we’re a non-profit that is democratically governed by the people who use it. We rent out useful things just like a library would with books, but now we’re lending out drills, ladders, or basically anything under the sun,” said Dillon Fagan, one of the organizers. The typical loan period is seven days, renewable for an additional seven days, he said.

There is a growing national movement in many cities to spin up such “libraries of things” and, although there is no umbrella organization or consortium, there are on-line forums for sharing ideas, problems, and solutions, Fagan said. Devon Curtin, who was grilling the hot dogs, said he had previously been part of a similar group in Baltimore before moving to PVD.

Devon Curtin of PVD Things at grand opening, Oct 23, 2022. (Photo: Michael Bilow)

“You can go on our website [pvdthings.coop], you just purchase a member share, and it sends you through some forms that you have to fill out for liability and whatnot. And then once you’ve done that, you’re a member,” Fagan said. “We ask that you join as a member, that’s a one-time fee of $20. That is refundable, so if you do not want to be a member anymore, you get that $20 back. However, every year, we’re going to be asking you to pay dues to help cover the operating costs, and that’s on a sliding scale so it’s just $1 per $1,000 of annual income per year.” The annual dues assessment is on the honor system, Fagan said. “We don’t look into it, just trust that you’re being honest.” Sponsorships are available for those in need but unable to pay.

The web site lists inventory, Fagan said, and there is a companion mobile app that queries inventory information, all written in-house.

The organization was incorporated in March 2021, Fagan said, but the process of formation began about a year earlier and there are now approximately 100 members. The physical facility in Olneyville has been occupied for only a couple of months. “That was the most difficult part and we knew that going into it, going through those forums online. Everyone said the same thing: It’s difficult to secure space, especially how the rent situation is.” That the building has a very prominent painted banner reading “Library Ct” was, he said, “just a pure coincidence. Very fitting for us.”

At some point the organization hopes to provide instruction in use of tools rather than merely lending the tools themselves. “We don’t have anything set up yet, but we are planning on having skill-sharing workshops that volunteers will be running, and I have heard from some people who have come in that they’re willing to help out with some different types of workshops,” Fagan said. “I’ll probably do a programming workshop because I’m a software engineer. So that’s my skill set.”

PVD Things 3D printer at grand opening, Oct 23, 2022. (Photo: Michael Bilow)

Although the bulk of lendable things is concentrated on traditional hand and power tools, from drills to automotive gear to lawn mowers, as well as construction implements such as ladders, the range encompasses everything from guitars and board games to a small 3D printer. Consumables, he said, are the responsibility of the borrower, whether nails and screws for hammers and drills or thermoplastic for the 3D printer.

Cooking utensils are in demand, Fagan said, because people need such simple things as muffin tins for special occasions but may use them only a few times a year. He said he has an interest in paella pans and paella burners because he loves Spanish food but would not need them often. Cooking might be a topic for skill-sharing workshops, he said.

There is a small selection of “how-to” books, but “we don’t plan on being like a library with tons of books. If we are going to have some books, it’s just going to be pretty specific to DIY projects and stuff like that,” Fagan said.

Some kinds of items cannot be part of the inventory for insurance reasons, Fagan said, and kayaks and bicycles, for example, must be re-donated elsewhere. Weirdly, another item prohibited for insurance reasons are bouncy houses.

PVD Things interior at grand opening, Oct 23, 2022. (Photo: Michael Bilow)

The Olneyville facility has regular hours every Wednesday, 6 – 8pm, but “as more volunteers come on, we’ll have the capacity to be open more days of the week and more hours,” Fagan said.

“We have put out a survey to see what people would want. I think it would be nice if we have some kind of regular cadence of asking our members, ‘Hey, what are we lacking?’” Fagan said. “Part of the name is ‘things.’ I guess the idea really is whatever the membership wants, that is what PVD Things will have.”

PVD Things “Library of Things” membership co-operative, 12 Library Ct, PVD. Web: pvdthings.coop Facebook: facebook.com/pvdthings

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