Your tool is my tool 

iTooLL opens year after winning $10,000 5x5 grant.

click to enlarge iAMCo-op was originally a monthly screening social, hosting local documentaries like this one (depicted: Councilman Leroy Robinson at the "Uncharted" #SocialScreening) - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • iAMCo-op was originally a monthly screening social, hosting local documentaries like this one (depicted: Councilman Leroy Robinson at the "Uncharted" #SocialScreening)
  • Submitted Photo

As artists, John Gieryn and Sukie Conley of Indy Art and Media Co-op are fully aware of Indianapolis' creative potential. They also know that making cool things happen can sometimes cost a lot of money.

And that's where iTooLL: A Media Tool Lending Library started.

A project that's now been over one year in the making, Conley and Gieryn initially presented their iTooLL idea at a 5x5 music education competition, where a panel of five musically inclined judges chose them as the winner of a $10,000 grant. (Editor's note: NUVO Editor Katherine Coplen sat on this panel.)

Conley and Gieryn have put these funds to use, along with fellow directorial partner Ronald David Lora-Castillo, and now they're ready to celebrate the grand opening of iTooLL this Thursday at their location in the city's Crown Hill neighborhood.

"We wanted to use this grant to invest in infrastructure that's going to stay around," Gieryn says. "The tool lending library is not just one beautification project. We're actually getting tools that are going to be stewarded by the community for people to keep creating more and more projects."

Although they aren't as common as one might expect, tool lending libraries operate on a fairly self-explanatory basis, with library members paying an affordable yearly membership fee to rent tools at a very low cost ($1 a week with iTooLL). In the case of iTooLL, members will also be able to suggest new tools to add to the library, allowing them to have ownership of this truly cooperative project.

"The point of the project is for it to be owned by the community," Conley says. "There are already so many good things that people are doing all over the city, so we're more like, 'Here's some more support with whatever you're trying to do.'"

Early on, the iTooLL directors used information from community conversations and surveys to select what would initially be in the library upon opening.

"We set it up, but then people can own what they do with it," Conley explains. After gauging the community's needs, the directors were able to group iTooLL's initial stock into three categories: storytelling tools (cameras, professional lighting, stabilizers, tripods, laptops, audio recorders), event production tools (speakers, PAs, mics, projectors) and practical tools (canopies, tables, chairs).

click to enlarge iAMCo-op threwseveral interactive social media workshops in its 1st year​ - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • iAMCo-op threwseveral interactive social media workshops in its 1st year​
  • Submitted Photo

"These are tools that we know can raise the quality of events and the quality of artistic production in our city," Gieryn says. "We're really excited to see the diversity that the library can bring to the music and arts scenes."

As for their location, the iTooLL library will be sharing a space with the Kheprw Institute, a community organization run by a staff of young adults and seniors who are dedicated to creating a more just, equitable, human-centered, environmentally sustainable world. In reflecting on the goals of the tool-lending library, Gieryn sees this partnership with Kheprw as an ideal match.

"Their four values are economy, education, empowerment and environment, and it's so funny how those are the exact four things that iTooLL does," he says.

Gieryn explains that iTooLL will encourage entrepreneurial spirits, which aligns with the economic, educational, and empowerment goals of Kheprw.

"These tools are so useful for really getting your sea legs in any sort of enterprise, because communication is king in this world," he says. As for the environment, iTooLL will also reduce each member's carbon footprint by decreasing the amount of media tools they purchase and use regularly.

"Within the developmental timeline, it's just a good time to be here, as money starts to come into this neighborhood," says Gieryn on their location. "We're giving people the ability to tell stories and are also making it cheaper for artists to live here as well."

When it comes to the library's checkout system, iTooLL members will be able to reserve tools from the library via an easy-to-use app. From here, members can check out tools for a week, picking them up and dropping them off during designated operating hours (Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 12 to 3 p.m.). Although a risk of theft comes with any sort of lending system like this, Gieryn and company believe the library's cooperative nature will keep members accountable.

"That co-ownership piece is really big," Gieryn says. "People will feel ownership of the library."

The three iTooLL directors hope that the library will give Indianapolis residents the freedom to pursue projects that they never could before due to lack of funding for resources. By doing this, they believe the local arts scene will diversify too.

"We just hope to hear voices that we wouldn't have heard from otherwise," Gieryn concludes.

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