What is Tool-Sharing? How to Start a Tool-Sharing Program in Your Neighborhood

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Tool-Sharing: A Sensible Idea

The occasion often arises when you need to do a DIY project in your home or yard, but don’t own the necessary tool. It doesn’t make sense to go out and purchase a tool that is expensive, needs to be stored, and would only be used infrequently. A practical, economical solution to this common dilemma is tool-sharing.

Tool-sharing is becoming more popular in both rural and urban communities. A neighborhood tool bank or tool-lending library benefits everyone by making available tools that can be borrowed on an as-needed basis, and eliminating the redundancy of individual households in the neighborhood owning similar tools.

Tool-Lending Libraries

Some larger cities have extensive tool-lending libraries offering a wide variety of tools for home, garden, construction or auto repair, as well as instructional materials and how-to manuals, free of charge or for a low maintenance fee. One such program is the Well Home Program in Seattle, which has been operated by the Phinney Neighborhood Association for over 24 years. Another popular tool-sharing program is Home Repair Services in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which loans out thousands of tools each year.

In California, the idea of lending out tools as well as books at community libraries grew into a successful tool-lending program in three cities: San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. Patrons can check out manual garden tools or power tools such as electric jack hammers and rotary impact drills for three days at a time; all that is needed is a library card.

Starting a Tool-Sharing Program in Your Community

If a tool bank or tool-lending library isn’t available in your community, starting a neighborhood tool bank can be as simple as getting together with a few neighbors on your block to share garden tools such as snowblowers, lawn mowers or weed whackers, or other household tools such as pressure washers or drain snakes. Tools for repairing cars are also frequently needed, and can be shared among neighbors.

For those interested in starting a neighborhood tool-sharing program, some things to take into consideration are:

  • what tools do people need
  • where will the tools be stored, in individuals’ homes or in a centralized location
  • what are the rules for borrowing
  • how will the costs for tool purchase and maintenance be covered
  • who will be responsible for maintenance and repair

Tool-sharing doesn’t have to be limited to just gardening or construction tools. Household appliances such as sewing machines, food processors, blenders, mixers, vacuum cleaners or other appliances could also be shared. In addition to saving money and space, tool-sharing is an excellent way to build community among neighbors.

To find out if there is a tool-lending library near your home, see Wikipedia’s list of tool-lending libraries, categorized by state.