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Library puts tools in people's hands

Bob Horton

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

INTRODUCTION: America is an "ownership society" for the most part. We buy things we need, such as tools for household work. Garages across the country are filled with examples. But there's one place in Springfield, Mo., that says residents there don't need to own all those things anymore. It's a place where people can check tools out, like a book. As we continue our Marketplace series, the "Next American Dream," we speak with Bob Horton, manager of this tool library. So, Bob, what kind of equipment are we talking about here?

BOB HORTON: Well, we have all kinds of saws: We have a chainsaw, we have a circular saw. We have power washers. We have drill kits, paint spray guns, air compressors, and things like that. Really what we are trying to do is break down barriers for our neighborhood residents.

CHIOTAKIS: Now, Bob, I think about a lot of these tools that I have personally. And I also think about convenience. And a lot of these things -- I'm playing devil's advocate here -- but it would be an inconvenience for me to have to go borrow something when I could have it in my garage. How do you convince people otherwise?

HORTON: Well, the neighborhoods primarily that we serve are low- to moderate-income neighborhoods, so a lot of times they don't have those tools. It's a very inexpensive yearly fee that they pay to belong to this library. And then they can come and check these tools out for free.

CHIOTAKIS: How did you get this all started? What was the idea behind it?

HORTON: Well, when I took over as executive director in 2004, I went and toured two different organizations like ours. And both of those had something like this. So I came back, talked to some people here in Springfield to talk about, is there a need for this and would it break down some barriers that people might have to fixing up their homes? Because one of our main objectives in our revitalization efforts is to improve the housing stock in the neighborhoods that we serve, and we feel this very much does that.

CHIOTAKIS: You know, we live this ownership society, Bob, and it seems to me a lot of people would want to have those items. Or, you know, if they don't have those items, then they're not interested in using them in the first place. How do you feel about that?

HORTON: Well, I think we do live in an ownership society, but we also live . . . but we're also facing economic times to where, people may not, if they need a tool, don't have the means to go out and purchase those tools. So we feel that there's definite value to becoming a member of this.

CHIOTAKIS: All right, Bob Horton, executive director of the Urban Neighborhoods Alliance in Springfield, Mo., thank you for joining us.

HORTON: Thank you very much.

About the author

Steve Chiotakis was the host of Marketplace Morning Report until January 2012.

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