What is a Tool Library?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2019
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A tool library is a collection of tools which is maintained for use by members of the library. Much like the traditional library, the tool library differs in that it lends out tools instead of books. Library members may be required to pay a small subscription fee in order to have access to the tools, although some communities provide access as a public service. A tool lending program can be an extremely useful community asset, and many communities from small to large have a tool library of some sort. If you are curious about whether or not your area has a tool lending program, you can run an online search for “tool library” and the name of your community. If one doesn't come up in the results, you might want to think about starting one.

There are a number of advantages to a library of this kind. Many people need specific tools for projects, anything from table saws to screwdrivers, but wouldn't use those tools otherwise. Instead of individuals each spending a large sum of money on a specialized tool which they use once or twice, people can come together to share these resources. Keeping tools in a centralized library encourages frequent and efficient use, with the cost of the tools themselves being spread among a variety of sources — member subscription fees, donations, grants, and community support.


Another reason to use a tool library is space. Many people lack a great deal of storage space, and tools can start to take up a lot of room as they accumulate. By using a tool lending library, people have all of the advantages of a large workshop, without actually needing to maintain one. This can also be useful for people who are just beginning to explore projects where they might need tools, along with individuals who lack the funds to establish a big workshop. High school drama programs, for example, could utilize this type of resource to build sets for an annual production, rather than maintaining their own tools on campus.

In addition to public tool libraries, there are also private tool libraries. Some organizations band together with others to create libraries for the use of their members exclusively. Nonprofits which engage in nature cleanup, for example, might band together create a big library. In this case, members of the public may not be allowed access, and the tools in the library would only be used for events organized by the nonprofits who established the library.

The staff at a tool library typically maintain the tools, performing the routine care which keeps them working well. Staff members may also help provide instruction to the borrower on how to properly use the tools. Some tool libraries hold safety workshops and other public events so that people can learn to use tools in a controlled, safe environment. They may also provide how-to guides for their tools as well.


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