What are Tool Libraries?

Who invented Libraries of Things and Tool Lending Libraries?
People have been sharing tools for as long as there have been tools.

The first tool lending operation we know about started in 1976 in Columbus, Ohio, and is still open for business.  In 1979, the City of Berkeley, California opened a tool lending library as a branch of its public library system.  Nearly half of the __ tool lending operations started in the last ___ year.

Are tool lending operations actual Public Libraries?

In Oakland and Berkeley, California and Globe, Arizona, the tool lending operation is a branch of the local public library system.  In most other places, the tool lending is done by a local non-profit organization.  Some libraries specialize in only certain types of tools, others are more general.

What does it cost to borrow tools?
That depends on the operation.  Most tool lending libraries loan the tool for free, but charge a daily fine if the tool is returned late.  Most require patrons to pay a small annual membership fee.  A few charge a small daily fee for each borrowed tool.

How are tool lending libraries different from for-profit Tool Rental Shops or big box stores that rent tools?
Commercial tool rental shops typically have a relatively small range of power tools and heavy equipment, and charge by the day or the hour.

Tool lenders almost invariably have a much wider variety of tools, down to basic hammers and screwdrivers, as they are driven by what the home user needs, without regard to what is profitable to rent.

How have people started Libraries of Things and Tool Lending Libraries?
Most of the existing tool lending libraries were started by a few volunteers who managed to pull together a small set of mostly donated tools, find a small space in a community center, and open for business a few afternoons or evenings each week.

Are tool libraries good for local hardware, garden and building supply stores?
We think that tool lending does little to threaten these businesses.  What they might lose in an occasional sale of a tool, they almost certainly gain in the sale of materials necessary for jobs that are facilitated by tool lending.  For example, each time a tool lender provides a tile saw, the borrower is probably out there buying tile and grout from the local store; every paint gun needs paint, every palm nailer needs nails, and so on.  A significant number of the jobs that are being done with a loaned tool simply would not be done at all if not for the borrowed tool.


What is the Lending Library Alliance?
TLA is planned to be an international non-profit organization that:

(1)  inspires people to start and support sustainable local lending libraries; and

(2)  brings together existing libraries to better share ideas and best practices.