Solutionary Ideas You Can DIY: Tool-Lending Libraries

Image courtesy of juanpol
via Creative Commons.
You know what I love? Well, I love lots of things, but one of the things that I love is that I don't own a single shovel, lawn mower, pressure washer, ladder, drill, or a whole slew of other tools. And yet, I have access to any of those -- and more -- any time I want. I'm fortunate, because I live in a co-housing community in which we share all those things; we own most of them collectively, rather than singly, so, in my community of 26 households, we don't have to have 26 lawn mowers, for example.

But, you don't have to live in a situation like co-housing in order to reap the benefits of not having to own a bunch of stuff you rarely use. One of the great ideas popping up around the U.S. and beyond is tool-lending libraries.

Our friends at The Center for a New American Dream recently posted an essay by Jason Hatch, who founded the North Portland Tool Library, Oregon's first tool lending library. Hatch and his friend, Laura Dalton, didn't just dive in. They visited and interned with other tool libraries to understand how to create a useful and sustainable model. As Hatch says,
"The doors of the North Portland Tool Library opened to four North Portland neighborhoods in October 2004; 16 people signed up, and some 20 tools left the building. I truly wondered during the course of that week, would those tools return? They did. And they’ve continued to return. When one borrower had a drill and a miter saw stolen from his car, he bought replacements before the stolen ones were due. A house fire claimed most of the possessions of another borrower, but when his homeowner’s insurance came through, so did replacement tools for NPTL. Laura developed tool safety and other workshops to help borrowers use the equipment and expand their skills."

And now there are more than 2,500 registered members and hundreds of tools.

Read the complete essay.

And get even more inspiration from what Treehugger blogger Sami Grover did. Inspired by reading Jason's essay, Sami contacted the people in his neighborhood listserv (another great idea) to see if anyone was interested in starting a tool-lending library. Sami says,
"Within two hours of logging back into my emails, we had a functional system for offering and requesting tools and resources—and an amazing array of items available.

"... Neighbors emailed with encouragement, and sent long lists of items including chainsaws, tillers, ladders, trailers and even a couple of kayaks that they would be willing to share. We immediately set up a group email, a system for tagging email subject lines, and a Google Docs spreadsheet for listing what's available. And we were done."
 Find out more about starting a tool-lending library in your community or neighborhood here (or just search the web for start tool lending library.

~ Marsha

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