It’s like a library but instead of books you can check out garden tools. However, unlike a library, sometimes there is a membership fee to get your library card. For instance, in Pittsburgh, according to an article in the Pittsburgh City Paper, an organization called Grow Pittsburgh will sell memberships to a newly opened tool lending library. Members of Grow Pittsburgh are able to borrow anything from trowels and garden tools to larger items such as tillers and weed whackers. Compost, mulch, and straw will also be available, according to the article.
The first tool lending library was started in Columbus, OH, in 1976, according to Wikipedia. Originally run by the City, the Tool Library is now operated by Rebuilding Together Central Ohio, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization that works to preserve and revitalize homes and communities in Central Ohio. The RTCO Tool Library makes available over 4,500 tools free of charge to both individuals and non-profit organizations. This tool library was among many in what could maybe be considered the first generation of tool libraries – including The Phinney Tool Library in 1978 and The Berkeley Tool Library in 1979 – most of which were founded in the late 70s or early 80s. Many of these libraries were started with community block grants. A variation of the tool lending library model exists in Atlanta, Georgia. At the Atlanta Community ToolBank, for instance, the tools are reserved for use only by nonprofits and other community-based organizations who are performing volunteer and facility maintenance projects. The ToolBank tool inventory is not available to individuals.
In my hometown of Asheville, NC, there is also a tool lending library, but its membership is free. The Asheville Tool Library (ATL) provides tools at low or no cost to citizens and local community organizations in addition to low or no cost educational classes enabling members to become deeper engaged in garden projects as well as countless other things, according to Nick Letts, the library’s co-founder. In an IOBY fundraising campaign which was fully funded, Nick wrote: “Ultimately the biggest tool we will ever have is the ability to build community and the ATL is one tool in that toolbox.”
Click the this link for a complete list of tool lending libraries around the world.