Emerald In The Rough: Smooth! Southeast Seattle Tool Library’s Grand Opening

By Cindi Laws, Columnist

Residents at the Southeast Seattle Tool Library Grand Opening
Residents at the Southeast Seattle Tool Library Grand Opening. Photo: Cindi Laws

Over 100 people from throughout our region stopped by the new Southeast Seattle Tool Library at its Grand Opening celebration on Saturday, May 16th. Balloons, beverages and bites were no match for the real treats: big tools, power tools, common tools, unusual tools, donated tools, and purchased tools.

It goes like this:  Start with a book library and hold the books. Then add table saws, a couple of pressure washers, a whole lot of knowledge and community spirit and then – OK…we can add back a few books.

The SE Seattle Tool Library will provide community access to a wide variety of tools, training and sustainable resources.”

It’s been said far too many times that “It Takes a Village”. And while that concept is true, especially in the Rainier Valley, what is also true is that without one or two exceptionally dedicated people, progress would be slow and limited. Many other great ideas and organizations have foundered for lack of organizing skills and driven leadership. But our new Tool Library is a blueprint for “How to Get Things Done.”


“Rainier Valley Tool Share…
…building a sustainable community by sharing tools and skills across generations.”

Sally Bailey at the Grand Opening.
Sally Bailey at the Grand Opening. Photo: Cindi Laws

And thus, on March 25, 2014, the Southeast Seattle Tool Library was born on Facebook. The first organizing meeting took place four days later at Hillman City’s Tin Umbrella Coffee for “Tool Share Chat, Brainstorm and Meet”. Lakeridge resident Sally Bailey and Columbia City resident Luke Held supplied the original brain drops, by crafting a simple mission statement.  Saturday’s grand opening was a testament to the dedication of a small group of South Seattle residents, who in less than fourteen months drove an idea into reality.

The primary person behind the wheel, however, was one Sally Bailey.

Sally is a consultant to nonprofit organizations and serves as the director. She completed the federal application for the Library become a tax-deductible nonprofit. The IRS granted legal 501(c)3 status last autumn. Sally filled out a community grant with Waste Management, and won the support of other community groups – along with funding for the Library.

Sally worked with the Department of Neighborhoods (D.O.N) on a lengthy grant application, and gained the support of Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell to support the grant. The D.O.N awarded the Tool Library with $25,000 in startup funding in January.  Sally searched up and down the Valley for a location that could be home for a few years, and negotiated a lease with Bellwether Housing.  She insisted on hyper-local contractors to install electrical and other construction needs. And all along, she collected. Steering committee members, volunteers, advice, and lots and lots of tools.

Sally put in much more than elbow grease. Over the past year, she organized garage sales – with stuff that came mostly from her home – and membership drives. The Grand Opening featured lots of prizes: scores of incredible and valuable antiques, art works, and collectables, all from Sally’s personal collection.

It wasn’t always easy; volunteers came and went. But the skill sets of the Steering Committee folks provided important legitimacy and substantial expertise, including those in engineering, construction, contracting, architecture, graphic design, community development and more.

“This demonstrates how quickly we can build our community when we have the right tools,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell. “And with the Tool Library providing tools, people improve our community.”

A south end residents makes usage of the library.
A south end residents makes usage of the library. Photo: Cindi Laws

All the progress was evident on Saturday, with a jaw-dropping inventory of tools and volunteers eager to coach visitors on their usage. Naysayers, who insisted apartment dwellers had little use for tools, were proven wrong when neighbors signed up for membership and checked out with tools.
Our “Village” now has the tremendous benefit of a well-stocked, growing Tool Library. It’s now time to share the love, “Village!” Honor the hard work of Sally Bailey and the people tooling up the Tool Library!

The Tool Library is located in a three-stall garage at 4425 Martin Luther King Way S, off S Genesee Street on the SW corner. For more information, and to become a member, please visit http://setools.org/


Cindi Laws is a resident of the Rainier View neighborhood, a long-time activist and a former elected official in the City of Seattle. She is the founding columnist of Emerald in the Rough.  

Featured photo by Cindi Laws

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