Were it not for the tool library, I would not have the tools I need


This great story on the Community Partnership of the Ozarks tool library from KY3 in Springfield, MO is worth checking out.

“Were it not for the tool library, I would not have the tools I need”.

Version 1.9: Redesign Started!

myTurn-adminVersion 1.9.1 of myTurn and Local Tools has been rolled out to all sites. The most visible change in this release is that we’ve started to integrate a number of design and user interface improvements.  We’d recommend clearing your browsers cache, or reloading if you see any “wonkiness” in the admin tools.  A fuller list of changes and bug fixes is included at the end of this message.

Over the next few releases we’ll be continuing to simplify the user interface and make it more mobile and tablet friendly.  We’ll also be introducing a way for admins to override styles and colors on your inventory pages.

Staten Island Tool LibraryWe’re also thrilled our system is being used to both help with the ongoing relief efforts and to help build resilient communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The Staten Island Tool Library is one of the first of these groups to formally open their doors. Check out their inventory!

We’re also supporting efforts on the Rockaway peninsula, in Sheepshead Bay, and other locations affected by Sandy.  As always, we appreciate your feedback and let us know if you have any questions.

Gene and the myTurn Team

Version 1.9.1 Release Notes

Bugs Fixed

  • [LEND-943] – Error that old password was entered unsuccessfully not cleared upon successful password change
  • [LEND-961] – WYSIWYG Editor no longer working on Org editing page
  • [LEND-940] – It is possible to browse the inventory of disabled organizations, even when not logged in
  • [LEND-941] – Nicer message on inventory/browse page when org is disabled
  • [LEND-942] – Make it possible for org admins to browse/search even when their org is disabled
  • [LEND-920] – Top tool graph is not picking up the default name of an item when a name is not entered for the item
  • [LEND-930] – Org email allowed to be blank
  • [LEND-938] – NPE at adminOrganization/show/X for orgs with no membership types
  • [LEND-905] – “Unable to record donation” message

Improvements Made

  • [LEND-960] – Use HTML5 input types on forms
  • [LEND-787] – On the “Edit Item” screen, make “Change Type” a button rather than link
  • [LEND-894] – List common countries at top of country list of addresses
  • [LEND-925] – Change date input field order to month/day/year for date of birth
  • [LEND-935] – Integrate new design into admin
  • [LEND-936] – Clean up new styles
  • [LEND-964] – Remember what menus are open in the accordion sidenav menu
  • [LEND-928] – Use lightbox for loan reminder preview messages
  • [LEND-954] – Add link to item page on emailed check out receipt so users can get more information about an item (e.g. link to manual/etc. if provided)

Local Tools 1.9: Reservations, Email and More!

Version 1.9 of Local Tools is now available – we know, it’s been a while! A few highlights from this release:
  • kill-a-watt-reserveReservations: the main feature in this release is a first pass at “reservations”.  We’ll be updating the Administration Guide and posting instructions on how to enable and use reservations shortly.
    • For those that can’t wait to try these features out, you need to enable them in both  “Settings -> Organization Info” and enable reservations for each item status under “Settings -> Edit Statuses”.
  • Email templates: Did you know you can edit the templates for loan reminders, new account confirmation messages, receipts and (now) reservations?  We’ve made these templates easier to find – just head over to Settings -> Email Templates when logged in as an admin.
  • Bug fixes: See the bolded items below for some of the fixes that a number of organizations have run into.
  • Local Tools is now a service of myTurn.  We formed myTurn to bring the advantages of “access over ownership” to a much wider audience — keep an eye out from some big announcements.
Our next couple releases will be coming out much faster and will be focusing on a combination of additional bug fixes and improved design/usability. As always, we’ll sneak some other improvements in as well.
Bugs Fixed

  • [LEND-870] – Ampersands not properly encoded in Org name
  • [LEND-871] – Button to save on “Edit User” says “Create”
  • [LEND-880] – Payment history does not load for (some?) users
  • [LEND-881] – Can’t upload an organization logo
  • [LEND-889] – Once you tab into email field, javascript validation won’t let you leave it blank
  • [LEND-896] – Need nice errors when required fields are missing
  • [LEND-898] – Error when creating a new user
  • [LEND-900] – Error when adding a new item to inventory
  • [LEND-902] – Error in user password javascript prevents form submission
  • [LEND-917] – Link to edit email reminder template causes an error
  • [LEND-931] – Users cannot change their own password: it gives “There was a problem verifying your current password”

Improvements Made

  • [LEND-802] – Update description for full size image field
  • [LEND-907] – Add links to additional file/image to item page
  • [LEND-911] – Make sure we reindex when saving certain org settings
  • [LEND-923] – Make organization email address mandatory
  • [LEND-662] – Upgrade search engine

New Features

  • Reservation Requests
    • [LEND-909] – Add reservation button to search results and item page
    • [LEND-910] – Add reservation-ability to Search Engine
    • [LEND-929] – Hide “List Reservations” in admin navigation if org has reservations disabled.
    • [LEND-836] – List of all pending reservations for an organization, with status
    • [LEND-837] – List all of the reservations associated with an organization, regardless of the status
    • [LEND-838] – List all the reservations associated with an item
    • [LEND-839] – Implement “Next approved reservations, and next pending reservation, if and only if it’s before the next approved reservation, and after ‘now'”
    • [LEND-840] – Workflow: Organization approves a reservation request
    • [LEND-841] – Workflow: Organization rejects a request for a reservation
    • [LEND-842] – Display the next approved reservation and the next pending reservation if it’s before the next approved reservation on the cart when a tool is added to the cart
    • [LEND-843] – Offer a “reservation” button on the tool details page (and on the card?) when 1) the org supports reservations and 2) the user is logged in
    • [LEND-844] – Workflow: put a “reservation” button on the tool details page (and on the card?) when the user isn’t logged in; the button takes them to a login/register page, then to the reservation page.
    • [LEND-850] – Add a tool status indicator to flag items as unavailable for reservations.
    • [LEND-851] – Workflow: User requests a reservation for a tool
    • [LEND-835] – Verify that when an organization doesn’t allow reservations, it’s not possible to reserve their tools
    • [LEND-845] – Confirm that email is sent to organization and customer when: 1) user requests reservation ; 2) admin approves reservation 3) admin rejects reservation
  • [LEND-919] – Page to edit the various email templates (Admin -> Settings -> Email Templates)
  • Libraries vs. Shops
    • [LEND-874] – Setup/implement a new MessageSource that can give different message values for stores and libraries
    • [LEND-857] – Replace occurrences of “member” or “library” with a placeholder
    • [LEND-876] – Support both *.localtools.org and *.myturn.com URLs – and use the right kind based on the organization
    • [LEND-904] – Depending on URL for “pick a store”, only show the orgs of that type (library vs not-library)
  • Beter Address Support
    • [LEND-883] – Add javascript to switch principal subdivision display when user changes country drop down
    • [LEND-884] – Redo some of the country logic
    • Better address support will be used to support location based searches in the near future.

Local Tools 1.8.4 Released: Cascading Lists and more

This release brings a ton of bug fixes and improvements, along with a few new features.  The main improvement is the way item types are selected. With the increase in type of items (media, kitchen, camera coming soon, etc.) we needed a better way to select the type of a new item or change the type of an existing item (also a new feature), so we decided to go with “cascading lists”:

You can see a full list of features, improvements and bug fixes below.

New Feature

  • [LEND-140] – Allow the type of item to be changed, use a new cascading list to select item types
  • [LEND-740] – Member Report


  • [LEND-730] – Provide better error message when a badly formatted image is uploaded
  • [LEND-741] – Resize uploaded organization logos
  • [LEND-775] – Improve error message when entering an invalid username on the account creation form
  • [LEND-776] – Fix Member Search by Email Address
  • [LEND-782] – Stale DB connections causing issues
  • [LEND-784] – Improve usability for tool type selection when creating a new tool, and when editing defaults for item types.
  • [LEND-785] – Make it possible for orgadmins to change the type of an item.
  • [LEND-786] – Clean up buttons for “edit item type”
  • [LEND-791] – Set default expiration on “regular” memberships to 1yr
  • [LEND-792] – Move to Three Column Layout for Library Logos
  • [LEND-793] – Resize logos to 200px wide automatically
  • [LEND-798] – Ensure correct name is used for item in admin and search if using a default from the “type”
  • [LEND-800] – Make sure item type list is sorted
  • [LEND-806] – Change request memberships to have a default loan length of 7 when orgs are created
  • [LEND-822] – Add library name to default layout search and browse results


Bugs Fixed

  • [LEND-795] – Convert to more recent image libraries to reduce errors
  • [LEND-507] – Multiple separate trips required to find out all the problems with a new user creation (orgadmin) ex: bad email; password mismatch,…
  • [LEND-726] – Membership type created even after error seemingly prevents it
  • [LEND-781] – When trying to create an account, user gets the message that passwords do not match even when they do
  • [LEND-788] – Date of birth day/month lost when editing users
  • [LEND-789] – Paging layout issue in default layout on last row if it is not full
  • [LEND-790] – After running a manual loan reminder for all users on a report, it says, “Email sent” on a page without sidenav.
  • [LEND-796] – Changing item type does not reindex the item
  • [LEND-797] – Nasty error when uploading non-image to image field
  • [LEND-799] – Error checking out and upgrading membership from request to full
  • [LEND-803] – Should not be able to “change item type” when creating a new item
  • [LEND-804] – Disabled users show up in the “check in/out” list but clicking on them to start a cart gives a server error
  • [LEND-807] – Some times, the due date is “today” (combination of other issues)
  • [LEND-814] – Editing Org Description gives ugly error when Description is too long

Tasks Completed

  • [LEND-805] – Change non-full memberships to have the same loan length as the full membership with the shortest loan length (to fix “today as a due date?!”)


Sharing Revolution Workshop (Seattle)

Want to get involved in the sharing revolution?  Join us, Cecile Andrews and a host of others in the Seattle area for this workshop:

Sharing Revolution Workshop
Saturday, June 23, 10am to 12:30 pm
Blue Building
66th and Phinney Ave, Seattle, WA
For more info contact: cecile@cecileandrews.com

The new “sharing revolution”is involved in sharing cars, houses, and working areas. They’re engaged in co-housing, ‘time banks,’ lending clubs, and local projects that share tools, exchange food produce, and even gardening space. We’re having a workshop to learn how to get involved in this movement in a way that helps reduce stress and saving the planet by increasing social ties and saving money.
Join us on Saturday, June 23 from 10 am to 12:30 pm at the PNA. It’s free, and you can join an ongoing group afterwards.

We’ll be on hand to answer any questions  about starting and running lending libraries, as well as to discuss all the other great opportunities for sharing.  We are looking forward to seeing you there!

How to Start a Lending Library Part 1: Insurance and Operations

It’s amazing how many inquiries we get every week from all over the country (and the world!) from people wanting to start a tool or other type of library.  Once someone hears about “libraries that lend out tools rather than books,” they start to dream of having access to a thousand tools without having to store and maintain them all personally. However, that blissful moment is often rapidly succeed by the thought, “do I really want to take on the liability of lending things to people with which they can accidentally cut off their body parts?”

Insurance & Legal

It is strongly recommended that if you will be loaning out tools, you take some basic precautions to protect yourself. There are insurance companies (including Philidephia) that will provide general liability insurance to tool libraries and workshops for about $600 to $700 per year.  If your library is connected to a parent organization (non-profit, business, etc.) then you can also talk with your existing insurance agency about adding a rider or amendment for your tool library operations.

A number of libraries also have provided their member agreements and liability waivers online, so you have a starting point for creating your own.  While none of us love dealing with the liability and legal issues, it is important to set things up right from the start to protect yourself and the valuable community resource you’re building. There are even legal services that will offer pro-bono services to help look over your documents and make sure you’re protected.

For those people not scared off by the liability issues, the second most common question we receive is “how do we actually manage membership, inventory and run the library?”

Inventory & Operations

If you were starting your tool library 20 years ago, or even three years ago, your options to manage memberships, inventory and loans were not ideal.  They included “home grown” systems (paper ledger, spreadsheets, etc.), clunky “book library” software, or rental management software. For example, the West Seattle Tool Library has developed a slightly larger than average tool library with about 700 members, over 1,000 tools, and as many as 200 tools out on loan at any given time.  If they tried to manage this volume with inappropriate tools, it would put tremendous stress on their part time staff and volunteers, as well as, make management of the library nearly impossible with relatively limited resources.

Luckily, today there are  solutions designed specifically for managing tool and lending libraries including out own Local Tools web based service.  Local Tools allows you to manage members, inventory, loans, and track money, whiling embedding some of the “best practices” of running a lending library right into the systems.  Lending library management systems take the drudgery out of the process by handling everything from automatically emailing loan reminders, to displaying inventory online and tracking late fees. If you are thinking about starting a tool or lending library, and we are biased, we’d strongly recommend you check out (pun intended) both of these options.

While there can be risks to starting a tool library, and work in running it, the reward of building a community where everyone has affordable access to the tools and skills to fix, maintain and make things is incredibly rewarding.

Our next post will talk about other types of lending libraries, and our early experiences working with Kitchen Share SE (Portland), and how to get a “Kitchen Tool” library running in your area.

Tool Library Resources

Want to get started now?  There are a number of resources to help you get going:

Tool Library Starter Kit – Local Tools, in conjunction with Share Starter and the West Seattle Tool Library have put together a “Starter Kit” to help other communities get a lending library going. I reduces the time necessary in dealing with potentially complicated details by providing sample documents such as Sample Lease Agreements and Sample Delinquency Letters.

MAKE: How to Start a Tool Lending Library – this blog post was co-written by our own Gene Homicki, with Zero to Maker author, David Lang.  David outlines how a tool library can help provide a rallying point for the maker movement in your community.

Shareable.net’s “How to Start a Tool Lending Library” – Patrick Dunn at the West Seattle Tool Library and Shareable put together a wonderful blog post on the subject. It includes interviews with a number of experienced operators as well as new entrants. The post adds focuses on answering the “why?” question about Lending Libraries.

Guide to Sharing – The Center for a New American Dream. in collaboration with Shareable.net, put out a Guide to Sharing, which includes a 10-Step guide to starting a Tool Library.

MAKE: How to Start a Tool Lending Library – this blog post was co-written by our own Gene Homicki, with Zero to Maker author, David Lang.  David outlines how a tool library can help provide a rallying point for the maker movement in your community.

Seattle Share Fair: Start Sharing Tuesday!

Did you know that in Seattle you have access to cars, tools, workspaces, and even land without having to own them?

Here at Local Tools we make sharing easier with the use of online, mobile and social media tools, but we also realize building a real community and culture around sharing takes people getting together locally.  Come learn about what we, and many other organizations in the Seattle area offer and how you can save money, learn new skills, and be happier by having access to the things you want — without the burden of ownership.

Join us, Share Starter, Sustainable West Seattle and others to celebrate the Sharing Economy at the 2012 Seattle Share Fair:

Date:  Tuesday, February 21st, 6-9pm
Location: West Seattle Senior Center

The Course of Events

6-7pm: Share Fair Tabling: Get Involved!
7-8:20pm: Feature Program
Facilitator: Gene Homicki, Local Tools
Speaker: Patrick Dunn, Share Starter
Community Panel:
Billy Thomspon, Zipcar (Car Sharing)
Ken Gollersrud, Seattle Public Libraries (Information/Stuff Sharing)

Max Hepp-Buchanan, Cascade Bicycle Club (Bike Sharing)

Micah Summers, West Seattle Tool Library (Tool/Stuff Sharing)
Peter Rothbart, We Patch (Land/Garden Sharing)
Willow Brugh, Space Federation (Space Sharing)
8:20-9pm: Socialize & Sign up!

Admission: FREE 

Local Tools 1.8.2 Released – Inventory Reports & Improvements

New Features

  • [LEND-739] – Inventory Report

Bugs Fixed

  • [LEND-679] – Can’t start cart for non-full-member when starting with an item
  • [LEND-713] – NPE in weeklyCheckOutIn
  • [LEND-717] – Admin stats are blank if there are no checkouts
  • [LEND-718] – First data point in graphs is always 0
  • [LEND-736] – The Stats/Graphs are Never updated
  • [LEND-738] – Stat cache timeout
  • [LEND-748] – Unnecessary trailing orgShortName on Admin Dashboard and Library Home urls
  • [LEND-749] – Error messages are missing from inventory browsing pages
  • [LEND-750] – Toggling between local and default on item editing page doesn’t always set the right values
  • [LEND-751] – Unable to change values for input type=”file” fields in new item layout
  • [LEND-752] – Checkboxes not rendering a text value for display
  • [LEND-753] – Error when adding new items to inventory
  • [LEND-754] – Editing an item causes all field data to be lost
  • [LEND-760] – Items should only reindex in Solr when org disabled status changes
  • [LEND-761] – Only tech admins should be allowed to change org’s shortName
  • [LEND-762] – Renewals sometimes does not properly check an item in before checking it back out (or something)
  • [LEND-763] – Broken image icon in cart when item has no image

Improvements Made

  • [LEND-349] – Add gender/sex to user search reports (and export)
  • [LEND-708] – Stat cache
  • [LEND-732] – Put item editing/check in/out links on the (end user) item info page
  • [LEND-733] – Improve tool editing page UI
  • [LEND-737] – Change display of stats/graphs cache status
  • [LEND-744] – Add membership expiration to user/member report and export
  • [LEND-745] – Add javascript validation to all fields that need it in the item editor
  • [LEND-747] – Prefill item editing fields with default value on override
  • [LEND-755] – Show item value page has a lot of blank space when fields are left empty
  • [LEND-756] – Improve itemType default value editing page in the same manner as item value editing page
  • [LEND-757] – Warn user that updating default item type values may take a long time
  • [LEND-758] – Swap out the YUI Rich Text Editor for TinyMCE or one that produces well-formed HTML
  • [LEND-734] – Add label field to Attribute


1.8.1 Released: Define Your Own Tool Categories & More

Version 1.8.1 of Local Tools, our lending library management system has been released.  The biggest addition to this release is the ability to define and edit your own tool categories.  In Local Tools, items are managed in a hierarchy (e.g. Hand Tools vs. Power Tools), and in a previous release we allowed them to be categorized by “use” (e.g. Carpentry, Skiing for sporting good libraries, etc.).  The tool categories are now fully editable by organizations.

We’ve also added additional email receipts, including for account creation, adding/changing a membership, etc.  While there were only 15 or so new features, bug fixes and improvements, many of them are fairly significant (including a fix to stats and graphs).  For more information, or to sign up for a beta test, please contact us.

New Features

  • [LEND-350] – Email user on Tool Library account creation
  • [LEND-655] – Add ability to add/edit Tool categories


  • [LEND-598] – Add a preference for displaying “Card On File” into on the checkout page
  • [LEND-677] – Preference for tracking and displaying “Card on File”

Bugs Fixed

  • [LEND-433] – System allows removing Library Memberships that are in active use
  • [LEND-685] – Error when creating user, a library membership is paid for, and email transactions are enabled
  • [LEND-705] – Admin Stats show wrong value for total # of library items
  • [LEND-719] – Can’t save user info after editing
  • [LEND-720] – Check in/out by week graph always displays 0 for the first week
  • [LEND-721] – Stats page not working – no data shown for any graphs in some cases
  • [LEND-723] – Trying to edit tool categories leads to an error
  • [LEND-724] – Lending library items are not reindexed after category is edited
  • [LEND-725] – Reindexing failing after saving item type
  • [LEND-728] – Default membership fee created not set to reasonable default
  • [LEND-729] – Membership type messages should display name if available

No Need to Buy Toys for Toddlers. Rent (or Share) Them Instead.

For those parents looking to save money this holiday season (or any time), “ShortCuts” Columnist for the NY Times, Alina Tugend, has an excellent article on renting or borrowing toys from places like BabyPlays.com:

IF you want to avoid spending a lot of money this year on things that won’t last, like Christmas trees and toys, you don’t have to buy. You can now rent them, enjoying the items in your house but sending them back when you don’t want them anymore.

And if you need tools to put them together?  She points them to our  new “Find a Tool Library” page, to find your nearest Tool Library:

Need some tools to put together some complex toys you bought? No need to run out and purchase your own. In fact, you may not even have to pay anything. Tool-lending libraries are becoming increasingly popular around the country. To see if one is in your area, check out localtools.org/find/, the newly created Web site.

And while the article focuses on renting toys, there is actually a pretty extensive look at the Berkeley Tool Library. One of the few tool libraries that are part of the public library system:

The Berkeley Public Library has been lending tools for 31 years and offers everything from screwdrivers to table saws to plumbing wrenches.

“You can unstop a sink or build a deck with our tools,” said Adam Broner, a lending specialist who has been working at the Berkeley library for about 20 years.

Power tools can be checked out for three days, while smaller tools are available for a week.

Thank you Anita for the pointers, and we hope everyone has wonderful experiences sharing the holidays!