Establish a Community Tool Library

It operates much like a traditional library, where residents check out tools and return them about a week later.

Description

Tool Library A community tool library is a volunteer and donation based cooperative that serves neighborhood residents. It operates much like a traditional library, where residents check out tools and return them about a week later. It is a resource for all members of the neighborhood so individuals avoid spending a lot of money on a tool they may only need to use once or twice, for people that are unsure of what tools they may need, and for residents that can't afford to purchase tools. Having access to tools empowers residents to take action on all kinds of projects and it simplifies maintenance, repair, and rehabilitation of homes and yards.

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Related Tools

When paired with other tools, creating a community tool library can contribute to a more empowered and more sustainable neighborhood. Think about volunteering, community improvement, and building and land maintenance. Try combining this strategy with:

Community Projects

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Neighborhood Benefits

Environmental

  • Reduced travel for getting materials and tools for local projects 
  • Reduced need for individuals to own a complete tool set, easing environmental costs of purchasing and owning tools

Social

  • Reduced financial burden for residents that cannot afford tools 
  • Empowerment of residents to complete individual and community projects
  • Increased interaction with neighbors
  • Teaching, learning, and training opportunities for residents, youth, and craftsmen

Economic

  • Reduced personal cost for home repair and maintenance 
  • Opportunity to employ residents, offer training, and promote volunteering
  • Individual property improvement, yard maintenance, and beautification that promotes neighborhood image, resilience, and growth 

Get Started

  1. Community Tool libraries have been successful in many other cities in the US and are a great opportunity for St. Louisans to gain the resources, knowledge, and capacity to improve their own neighborhoods, homes, gardens, and public spaces.
  2. Find Examples There are many tool library success stories to learn from. Examples are mapped and listed. Some standout examples are:
    1. West Seattle Tool Library
    2. Green Lents Community Tool Library
  3. Plan There are a few very detailed and helpful online guides to starting a tool library that cover the most important considerations, give how to steps, and give example documents about the following:
    1. Structure of the Tool Library
    2. Funding
    3. Staffing, Steering Committee, and Volunteers
    4. Insurance
    5. Inventory Management
    6. The sharing economy
    7. Mentorship and Networking
    8. Guide: Share Starter
  4. Find a Location When choosing a location for the tool library, consider reusing a vacant building or a vacant lot in your neighborhood. Often, these properties are owned by the City of St. Louis LRA.
  5. Plan Long Term Based on the story of existing tool libraries, starting a library is not a short term process. Some of the steps can be more involved and take a longer time to coordinate, so starting early and committing to the project is important. Sharing your story, your goals, and your progress with the community will be important to build support and keep the project moving forward. Have a presence at community events, farmers markets, public meetings, and through regular updates on a website, Facebook page, or blog. Some things that may take a longer time are: ″Creating a 501c3 or finding a host organization ″Securing a building or property ″Raising money for initial construction and establishment costs

Opportunities

Program Perhaps the most important part of the Tool Library is the programming that should accompany the actual tool rental. The tool library should offer books and how-to guides for common home maintenance and construction. Also, programming can be created to give demonstration workshops to teach members about basic home maintenance, new projects, techniques, and basic tool use and safety. Some possible projects include winterization, historic restoration, tree planting, and community improvement projects like seasonal clean-up days. Special consideration should be given to including youth training and mentoring programs partnered with the more experienced volunteers running the Tool Library.  

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