How to Start a Tool Library in Your Community

Tool libraries, which have been around since at least the 1970s, offer communities a way to share resources that would otherwise spend the vast majority of the time sitting in drawers and garages. They make screwdrivers, saws, drain snakes, drills, chisels, and whatever else one might need for building and repair projects available to patrons either for free or for a small fee. By providing access to tools, these libraries help to build resilient communities, they empower their users, they lessen neighborhoods' ecological footprints and they help to beautify areas.

Handily illustrating the benefits of access over ownership, tool lending is an idea that is quickly spreading. A directory of tool libraries now lists almost 50 around the world and there are more in the works. In August, the Center for a New American Dream, in keeping with its efforts to “change social norms around consumption and consumerism,” offered a free webinar entitled How to Start a Tool Library in Your Community. Over 200 people participated live and the webinar is now available online.

Featuring tool library veterans Mike Froehlich, founder of the West Philly Tool Library, Jason Hatch, founder of the North Portland Tool Library, Pete McElligott, founder of the Berkeley Tool Lending Library and Ty Yurgelevic, founder of the Temescal Tool Lending Library in Oakland, Calif., the webinar offers a behind the scenes glimpse at what it takes to successfully start and run a library and provides introductions to some of the people who helped launch the tool lending movement.

Some of the areas covered are: fundraising, buying tools, sponsorship, membership, location options, volunteers, legalities, fees, tool maintenance and repair, records, and outreach. The webinar is just over an hour long and is a great peer-to-peer resource for those interesting in bringing tool sharing to their communities.

Resources:

  • Local Tools - Web-based inventory management system that can be used to keep track of tools and tool library members
  • New Dream Community Action Kit - How-to’s and resources for setting up a tool library, creating a cooperative, organizing community swaps and more.
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