What's New in City Design

Tool Lending Libraries

Like a book lending library, tool libraries allow members to check out hand/power tools for short term use.

Benefits & Problems Addressed

Hobbyists & light users: Tool libraries make tools available to people who use tools sporadically. This saves users money and space needs consumed by storage.

Building community: Tools are a good convener for classes, adult show & tell and clinics.

Tips & Techniques

Getting started: Communities need to determine (1) location, (2) building the stock of tools, (3) insurance and organizational status, (4) managing inventory, (5) membership pricing & tiers. Initial costs can be around $10,000 for operations, administration and insurance.

Building the inventory: Working with partners & neighborhoods, put out a call for donations. For small collections, members can drop in, but over time, will likely need a web-based display and check out system. See if local hardware stores have inventory or are willing to donate/sponsor.

Location: Local libraries are beginning to add tool and garden tool collections.  Check to see if there is a maker space willing to share room. Work with Habitat for Humanity & other home construction/repair organizations.

Classes & clinics: Tool libraries are a good backdrop for classes to get people started on using tools such as making simple frames, furniture refinishing, and home repair.  

Partnerships & funding: Use the membership to provide volunteer help for home repair for the elderly or others in need. Apply for grants on energy efficiency, using members & tools to complete the job.

Maintenance & Care:  Tools require cleaning, maintenace (sharpening, oiling), so factor this into operations and budgets. 

Hot Buttons: Many tools pose hazards, in particular power tools, drills and saws. Get solid legal advice on insurance and liability waivers. As collections grow, space can be a challenge. 


Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library

St. Paul Tool Library

Vancouver Tools Library (the Library of Things)