If I Had a Hammer: Tool Lending Libraries

I love public libraries. They provide a fair system for sharing books, movies, and other media with other members of the community. It seems only natural that the library model could be expanded to include other useful, shareable items.

By Flickr user takomabibelot (Creative Commons)

So I was thrilled when I heard about tool lending libraries. Tools, like books, are infinitely useful and empowering, but sometimes only get used once. Tool lending libraries, which often work just like regular libraries, allow people to borrow things like drills, clamps, and wheelbarrows — making repairs and improvement projects more affordable and accessible.

Wikipedia lists more than 25 tool libraries around the United States, Canada, and Australia. Many are run out of existing public libraries (Berkeley Public Library was one of the first to offer the service) or other government agencies.

Some tool libraries are affiliated with volunteer programs. HandsOn Greater Portland lends out tools for volunteer projects, while HandsOn New Orleans offers the tools that aren’t currently being used for volunteer projects out to the public. In addition to a tool library, Rebuilding Together Central Ohio sends volunteers to help low-income, elderly, and disabled community members with house repairs.

Other libraries are limited to lending tools that serve a certain purpose. The Ottawa Public Library lends out pedometers to encourage citizens to walk more and improve their health. Silicon Valley Power offers tools (electric meters, caulking guns, etc.) that help Santa Clara residents and businesses monitor and increase their energy efficiency.

If you already have more tools than you know what to do with, consider donating some to a tool library near you.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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