Community Minute

Community Tool Libraries

Community tool libraries lend tools to community members or nonprofits to use in their homes or on service projects.

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Photo: Chas Redmond/Flickr

Some community tool libraries serve only organizations; others loan tools to individuals.

Have you heard of tool libraries? These community organizations—usually staffed mostly or entirely by volunteers—lend tools to community members or nonprofits to use in their homes or on service projects.  Some libraries will only lend to nonprofits or community groups, like schools or church youth groups, who need tools for community service projects. The Atlanta Tool Bank has been operating with this model for 20 years, and a similar project just opened up in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Service projects like neighborhood clean-ups, maintaining parks, and building playgrounds require a lot of tools that may not get used more than once or twice a year, and these tool banks provide a useful service for these community groups.

Another model, however, focuses on lending tools directly to community members so they can make repairs, build furniture, clear debris from their yards, and more. The North Portland Tool Library and West Philly Tools both loan tools to individuals. The West Philly library requires a yearly membership costing twenty dollars. There are many more of these tool libraries throughout the country.

Would a tool library work in Bloomington? It seems the biggest challenge would be replacing tools that don’t get returned; many power tools would be costly to replace. What model would you like to see?

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