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We wrote about specific lending libraries back in 2008 and 2009 here on Toolmonger, but guess what? Wikipedia now hosts a listing of scores of ’em in 20 different U.S. states. It seems the idea of lending and borrowing tools caught on. Wikipedia even links to a post by our friends over at Pop Mechanics who listed “building a local tool library” as one of their 10 ways to change the world.

In general, I’m behind the idea. I have quite a few tools, mainly because I’ve been obsessed with them for years. But I’m always surprised by how few of the people I interact with outside of Toolmonger have even the most basic tools for home or auto maintenance. To you and me, the idea of heading down to one of these shops to borrow a wrench might sound a bit hokey, but if you didn’t have one, well, it’s better that trying to turn a nut with your teeth. And these kind of libraries seem even more on target when you consider the idea of borrowing more complicated or less-commonly-used tools which it just doesn’t pay to own. How many non-pros keep a large rotary hammer in stock just in case, for example?

What makes these libraries sound even better to me is how they encourage community around the tools — you know, the idea of getting those old fogeys to pony up and show how things get done. The West Seattle Tool Library mentioned in the Pop Mech article had over 1,300 tools as of 2011 — ranging from a wood chipper to a 3D printer — and offers a variety of events and classes to help locals learn to use them.

Whether you need tools or just want to hang out with people who enjoy them as much as you do, you might want to check the list and see if there’s one nearby. They seem worth a visit.

List of Tool-Lending Libraries [Wikipedia]


5 Responses to Wikipedia’s Listing of Tool Lending Libraries

  1. PutnamEco says:

    Sad to see no comments, Some of my best memories are from a shared shop environment. I live in a fairly rural area now with no such opportunities locally, although the art community has some shared spaces, I don’t think they utilize them as much as they could.
    I guess our consumer culture has poisoned us against sharing. Can’t sell a lot of things to everyone, if everyone shares, now can we.

  2. Ray says:

    The goat which has many owners will be left to die in the sun. — Haitian proverb

    • PutnamEco says:

      “False happiness renders men stern and proud, and that happiness is never communicated. True happiness renders them kind and sensible, and that happiness is always shared.”—-Charles de Montesquieu

  3. Doug B says:

    This sounds like a pretty neat idea, and frankly one I hadn’t considered outside of the usual rental areas you can find at Home Despot or the like. As a guy with a craaapload of tools that are (unfortunately) at the moment thousands of miles away from me, my question is: Who supplies the initial tool inventory? Do you just donate a few of your own and thus become an eligible member? Can someone throw a link out that explains the process in a little more detail? Thanks!

  4. Josh says:

    The WS tool library is just as great as it sounds. I have both borrowed and donated tools, and definitely feel as if I come out ahead in the process. I turned over an old horizontal bandsaw that was taking up space, and they are refurbishing it and put in their really nice shared workshop.
    I am currently in the process of insulating my home shop, and I was able to walk in and borrow an electric stapler for a week. I don’t think they have a 3D printer (yet) but their inventory of hand and power tools is quite well deep!

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