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Photo provided by Ottawa Tool Library.

Fixing to tinker: Ottawa Tool Library volunteers host a repair café – 12.09.17

By Mer Weinhold on December 4, 2017

The Ottawa Tool Library has had a busy time recently – they recently turned 2 years old, organized a film screening, and have a repair café coming up soon. Much more ambitious than most 2-year-olds I’ve met.

Repair cafés have their origins in the Netherlands in 2009, and have since spread worldwide. The Ottawa Tool Library held one back in April 2017, and it was so successful they’re doing a whole series of cafés. They’re starting on December 9th at Makerspace North, and then moving the event around the city to different neighbourhoods.

Many of us have That One Friend who’s good at tuning up bikes, fixing computer mice, altering clothes, etc. You visit them and bring the item that needs to be fixed, hang out while they repair it, and get to chat with them and maybe learn something about the techniques they’re using to fix it.

A repair café is quite similar, but on a grander scale. Volunteer fixers spend the day meeting new people who need help with textiles, electronics, kitchenware, toys, bikes, books, or whatever else they’d prefer to save from going to a landfill. It’s not just an opportunity to breathe new life into beloved or hard-to-replace items, but a chance to meet people in the local community. You might even learn a new skill if you watch closely and ask questions while the repairs are happening.

Photo provided by Ottawa Tool Library.

The café aspect is in the social element—there are snacks and drinks, a lounge for socializing, and activities while you wait. Rather than making it a strictly business-like experience, a core part of a repair café is the casual social atmosphere. Fixers are there to have fun repairing things, and help people learn a little more about how things work, as well as how to fix them when they break.

Bring an item to be fixed, and learn some simple repair techniques from someone who’s passionate enough about tinkering to spend an entire day doing it for free. The Ottawa Tool Library community is a vital and growing one, and it’s exciting to see them launch a new ongoing program.


Register to attend on Eventbrite, and check out the Facebook event. Both contain accessibility information. If you have repair skills you’d like to volunteer, you can contact the organizers through the website.