What is a Tool Library?
Think of a tool library like a book library…except for tools (and often, other really useful things)! Tool libraries, or Libraries of Things, are built on a sharing model that recognizes the importance of having access to resources but believes we don’t necessarily need to individually own all the things we use. With tool libraries, you just borrow it when you need it and return it when you’re done. If you think about it, how many people actually need to have a circular saw or cider press every day? A few, sure, but not most of us.
An Economic and Environmental Win!
Tool libraries also address economic and environmental issues. Tools are expensive and having a place to store them doesn’t come cheap either. Tool libraries make it possible for more people to have access to these items even if they can’t afford to buy them on their own. This brings us to the second point: the environmental cost. Tools, like most of our consumer goods, require a lot of resources to produce and that production process creates emissions and other waste that harm the planet. The more things we share, the fewer resources required and less pollution created!
How They Work
Most libraries run on a membership model. Many have sliding scale rates to join and then offer free or very cheap rentals for individual tools. Many tool libraries also offer tool training, classes on various skills and repairs, as well as fixer meet-ups. Sometimes they’re housed within another larger organization and have paid staff; sometimes they’re run by volunteers out of someone’s garage – and everything in between.
Pictures From Our Amazing Tool Libraries
Get to Know Washington's Tool Libraries
A program of Sequim’s only re-purpose, recycle, up-cycle, non-profit store; Around Again’s Tool Library allows members to check out tools for free – all with the goal of preventing waste. “The more used stuff that gets another life, the less new stuff has to be made. That means less new materials are used, less carbon ends up in our atmosphere, and less good, usable stuff ends up in landfill.”
Around Again has been the leading supplier of used building products and home furnishing materials in Sequim since 2009.
Just like a normal library, the Ballard Tool Library is a public service that provides community access to tools and an exchange of knowledge, at little to no cost. We use a very loose definition of “tool,” therefore our members can expect to find the usual drills, saws, etc. as well as sewing machines, juicers, canopies, lawn aerators, and many other dealy-bobs and whatchamacallits! We aim to build a collection that represents Ballard artists, craftspeople, gardeners, mariners, and putterers. Are you looking for a specific dealy-bob or whatchamacallit? Let us know and we’ll try to get it!
The Fall City Community Tool Library is a service of the Fall City Community Association (FCCA) as a service to provide the use of shared tools to community members at minimal cost. FCCA membership is open to anyone who lives or works within the boundaries of the greater Fall City area.
FCCA membership is a prerequisite for Library membership.
Use our collection of over 200 unique tools. Instead of buying brand new tools, share ours and save money for projects. All of our tools are available when you need them – you no longer have to store and maintain your own. We offer our Tool Library in conjunction with our Repair Cafes, Recycling and Materials Reuse Programs.
Take it or Leave it Program
Why waste something that’s perfectly good just because you no longer need or want it? We keep usable materials in circulation through our Take it or Leave it program. Building supplies, small housewares, and more are kept from the landfill when their owners no longer want them. Many community members want to move materials off their property or out of their garage but are loathe to send them to the landfill. Others delight in finding unexpected treasures like light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, doors, and lumber.
The Phinney Neighborhood Association (PNA) is home to the oldest known tool library in Washington. The Tool Library is a community-based program providing a valuable service with the help of its wonderful volunteers. Tools are available for check-out to PNA members (memberships are open to everyone on a sliding-scale basis) and Items can be checked out for one week at a time for a nominal fee, with the potential for renewal, depending on demand. The PNA also runs home clinics including making storm windows and insulating, and a community wood shop is in the works! A related project, the PNA Village is aimed at helping seniors age in place, with fixers doing everything from gardening to home repairs
The Seattle Farm Co-op is a community-based project supplying urban farmers in the Seattle area.
Our focus is on obtaining supplies such as animal feed, fertilizers, mulch, seeds, etc., from local & sustainable sources as much as possible, and saving money through co-operative purchasing. We are also promoting the ideas & values of sustainable living. We hope to collaborate with organizations such as “Seattle Tilth” and support the growth of urban agriculture by providing a place for tool & resource sharing, educational classes, community information, and more.
The South King Tool Library (SKTL), began supporting and coordinating repair events in 2018 and officially opened our one-of-a-kind building for curbside checkout in June 2020. SKTL provides equal access to tools and training in order to help maintain neighborhoods, build community and reduce unnecessary consumption. The key principles of our organization are Sharing, Training and Empowerment. We share tools and information, offer training and education, to empower our community to make a positive impact in their lives. We provide instruction on proper tool use, offer classes on a variety of topics, we work with community partners to distribute educational and informative materials, and we host repair cafes to foster repair over replacement. Our partnerships are critical in bringing our community together, building equity and accessibility, as we work together to build better lives in South King and North Pierce Counties. Anyone 18 or over can become a member of SKTL. You don’t even need to live in South King County. South King Tool Library is the ONLY tool lending option in King County south of Seattle. That makes us very convenient for lots of people in the Puget Sound area. If you’re one of them, join us!
The Southeast Seattle Tool Library provides access to a wide variety of tools, training, and a basic workshop space. We aim to inspire and equip our neighbors to participate in both personal and community projects.
At Spokane Public Library’s Library of Things, you can try new things without the financial commitment. Play the guitar, set up a badminton net, go birdwatching, or take our Discover Pass on a hike. Check out almost anything! Items available for check out include outdoor equipment, musical instruments, gardening tools and seeds, telescopes, and other miscellaneous items.
The Tacoma Tool Library improves quality of life in the South Sound by providing tools, education, space, and support to cultivate self-sufficiency while reducing waste.
We provide low cost access to shared tools and other durable goods, and encourages re-use, repair, and reduced consumption. In addition, the library is a safe community space for learning how to use household tools, and empowers local residents to care for their homes and neighborhoods, house by house and block by block.
Members can borrow any of our 2,000+ available tools—everything from hammer drills to hand weeders—for a week with no charge. Use the tools, clean them, and return them to the library when you’re done. That’s it!
The Vashon-Maury Tool Library is a community resource designed to support and promote shared use of tools on Vashon and Maury Islands. All tools and furnishings have been donated by islanders to benefit the community, and staffing is entirely done by volunteers. Members can borrow any tool from our collection to use in their own projects.The library opened in late 2015 and has proved enormously popular with islanders. It now has over 500 members, a large and growing tool collection, and popular classes and workshops, as well as supporting the Vashon Fixit repair cafes.
Since June of 2010, The West Seattle Tool Library has provided donation-based access to over a 3,000 tools to any resident in our community. Over 4,000 residents have taken the Tool Library up on that offer and formed a great community of DIYers, makers, and students.
The West Seattle Tool Library is a community-led project to provide pay-what-you-can community access to a wide range of tools, training, and relevant advice.
Starting Your Own Tool Library & Other Resources
Repair Economy WA is made possible with generous funding from the WA Department of Ecology’s Public Participation Grant