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Establish a Neighborhood Tool Library

Description

Chances are, you’ve bought tools for a specific home project that you haven’t needed much since then. Whether it’s an extension ladder, a circular saw, or a specific drill bit, it’s likely that you have tools your neighbors could use once in a while, and vice versa.

Before you buy more tools and equipment for your next project, consider borrowing from and sharing tools with your neighbors, or pooling your money to purchase equipment together. Tool sharing can save you money and free up valuable storage space. Your tool-share can be informal—sharing tools with just a couple of neighbors—or more structured, creating a neighborhood tool “library” people can join.

Small-Scale Tool Sharing
To start sharing tools with your neighborhood, begin by talking to the neighbors closest to you. Mention some of the tools you have that you are willing to lend, and ask what they might have. Build a spreadsheet that includes a tool/equipment inventory, contact information, and expectations or rules.

Neighborhood Tool Libraries
Setting up a larger borrowing group with more neighbors can be more complicated, but not in every case. If your neighborhood has a Facebook page, other online group, or an email list, you can simply post a call for tools/equipment as needed and encourage others to do the same. 

You could also use the group or email list to invite people to contribute to a shared spreadsheet (Google Sheets is a useful collaborative tool). Have participants list things they’re willing to lend, along with their contact information. Use the spreadsheet to also set any expectations for borrowing, including timely returns and caring for the things borrowed.

Basic Steps 

  1. Talk to your neighbors and recruit them to join the tool-share. Use your neighborhood’s communications tools to spread the word, whether that’s Facebook, Nextdoor, an email list, or association meetings.
  2. Take an inventory of everyone’s tools, as well as a wish list of needed items. Set up a way of tracking and checking out tools (e.g. Google Sheets), and establish basic rules.
  3. Check with your neighbors before you purchase new tools or equipment. Neighbors may be willing to share the cost of shared items.
  4. Label or mark all of your tools with your name and contact information. It may be helpful to keep track of the serial numbers of your larger items.
  5. Consider where the items will be stored. The simplest way is for everyone to store their shared tools at their homes, but there may be a communal space where the tools can be stored. Some neighbors may be short on space, so look for volunteers with extra storage room.
  6. Look for community partners who may donate tools to your group.
  7. Be flexible, and help your neighbors even more by sharing your skills.

Resources 

Share Starter
sharestarter.org

Share Starter has plenty of resources available for folks looking to establish more complex lending library, but their online resources would benefit a group of any size. Resources include sample documents, a knowledge base, and user forums.

View a comprehensive packet of information, frequently asked questions, and more at sharestarter.org/tools/.

Freecycle
freecycle.org

Freecycle is a worldwide network of people who are giving and getting things for free in their own towns and neighborhoods. It’s all about reuse and keeping useful things out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers, and membership is free.

National Tool Library Google Group
groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/toollibrary

This group was set up by tool library organizers to provide a nationwide forum where those interested in founding tool libraries could get their questions answered.

Online Lending Platforms
These online platforms allow you to easily manage a lending library.