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Imagine your favorite necklace clasp broke, but you don’t have small tools to repair it. While it may not be worth enough to take to a jeweler, the necklace holds great sentimental value, and you need the right equipment to fix it. That’s where Prince William Public Libraries’ Repair Cafés come in. For the past year, Bull Run and Montclair Libraries have been hosting Repair Cafés for residents to work alongside community volunteers to fix items rather than throwing them out.

Repair Cafés are free meeting places where people come to repair things together. Last year, Prince William Public Libraries applied for grant funding through Microsoft’s ChangeX program to bring Repair Cafés to two branches. The ChangeX initiative was created to empower communities to positively address social and environmental challenges.

After successfully securing funding, Bull Run and Montclair Libraries purchased tools, tents, and refreshments for their volunteers and the public to use. Montclair Library also used its ChangeX grant money to hold a series of programs in the summer and fall of 2022, culminating in a two-day Repair Café Expo where local businesses and artisans hosted repair stations for musical instruments, jewelry repair, tailoring and sewing, and bike maintenance. They hosted a Film and Discussion program to discuss how American consumer culture affects our planet and the individual steps – like participating in Repair Cafés – people can take to make positive change. Montclair Library also provided repair kits for patrons to take home to use on other small repairs. More than 150 people participated in Montclair Library’s Repair Café.

“We had three goals going into this project: to bring community members of different backgrounds together, to further the library’s commitment to lifelong learning through actively engaging patrons in the process of working together to bring ‘broken’ items back to life, and to demonstrate the importance of the public library as a community hub that offers more than just books,” commented Shannon Ball, Adult Programming Librarian at Montclair Library.

Bull Run Library’s capstone event was held on September 17, 2022, the first weekend the library was open after an extensive nine-month renovation. The Repair Café invited vendors to share their expertise and knowledge in repairing bicycles, clothing, electronics, and more. It was important for Bull Run Library to partner with local organizations, including Keep Prince William Beautiful and the Prince William County Landfill and Social Waste Division, when seeking volunteers. Not only did the Repair Café achieve its goal of bringing people from the community into the library, but it also helped establish future collaborations for the library’s new Makerspace.

Susan, a retired art teacher, brought in jewelry that once belonged to her mother. “I haven’t worn these in 20 years because they were broken,” she shared. A local jewelry expert, Marth, helped fix the pieces so that Susan could once again wear the pieces her mother gifted her two decades ago.

Both Bull Run and Montclair Library are looking to offer more Repair Cafés in the future. These programs are part of Prince William Public Libraries’ bigger mission to bring people, information, and ideas together to enrich lives and build community in a welcoming, inclusive environment.

“Our librarians are always looking for opportunities to advance our strategic priorities in new, innovative ways,” said Deborah Wright, Prince William Public Libraries director. “We want to be available to support our communities while providing public spaces for them to meet, converse, and learn.”

Bull Run Library is planning a Repair Café this fall in its new Makerspace. Prince William Public Libraries welcome the public to visit their 12 branches in Prince William County and the City of Manassas. Serving nearly 500,000 residents, Prince William Public Libraries provide free access to books, e-books, e-audio, print and digital magazines, a Digital Library, and more. The libraries offer more than 300 programs every month, including story times, arts and crafts programs, and book clubs. Learn more at

-Rachel Johnson, Communications and Marketing Director, Prince William Public Libraries

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