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, 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 build resilient communities, empower members, and lessen ecological footprints. By emphasizing the benefits of access over ownership, the idea of lending tools is quickly spreading.
In keeping with its efforts to "change social norms around consumption and consumerism," New Dream hosted a free webinar on "How to Start a Tool Library in Your Community." The webinar features 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, California, and offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what it takes to successfully start and run a library. It also provides introductions to some of the people who helped launch the tool lending movement. The webinar covers a lot of ground: fundraising, buying tools, sponsorship, membership, location options, volunteers, legalities, fees, tool maintenance and repair, records, and outreach. It is just over an hour long and is a great peer-to-peer resource for those interesting in bringing tool sharing to their communities.
Here are some additional resources to help you start a tool library:
- Comprehensive tool library starter kit from Share Starter
- Digital inventory management system that can be used to keep track of tools and tool library members from Local Tools
- Community Action Kit from New Dream
- National Tool Library Google Group
This article was originally published in 2012 and was updated in 2018.