AP: Need a Tool? Libraries Lending More than Books.

While this is no surprise to us, since we both track tool and lending libraries around the country and offer a tool library software platform to make it easy to start new ones. It’s great to see the AP picking up the story:

In a number of communities across the U.S., it’s possible to borrow tools, musical instruments, fishing poles and much more from the local public library. The trend expands the traditional role of the library as a community resource for free knowledge. Libraries see the programs as a new way to offer residents a chance to learn — just not necessarily with a book.

Also always, check out out interactive map of Tool Libraries around the US and Canada




$2,000+ to Help Start a Tool Library In Your Community

For all those those aspiring tool (or kitchen, music, toy, etc.) libraries just starting up or looking to expand, the Center for a New American Dream is offering $2,000 or more for community projects in the U.S. (and Canada!).


A chance to raise $2,000 or more for your neighborhood project!

Whether it’s a neighborhood garden, a community swap, or a tool lending library, the Center for a New American Dream knows that your block, street, or neighborhood has an exciting project just waiting to come to life.We’re here to help make that a reality through the Get2gether Neighborhood Challenge.


Learn more at:


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 

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!

Learn How to Start a Tool Library on Wednesday Nov 30th in Seattle

We’re excited to announced that on Wednesday, November 30th 2011 at 7pm we’ll be giving a workshop in Seattle on how to start a community tool lending library with the West Seattle Tool Library.  The meeting will be held at the Ravenna Eckstein Community Center and we’ll be providing answers to questions like:

  1. Why should we start a kitchen, tool, sporting goods, etc. lending library?
  2. What do we need to get started?
  3. Where/how do we get insurance?
  4. How much funding to get started & keep things going?
  5. Do we have to buy the tools?
  6. How do we manage all the tools and new members we’ll be getting every week?
  7. What are some strategies for maintaining tools?
  8. and we’ll be answering other questions participants may have.

This meeting is being hosted by Sustainable NE Seattle:

Time: November 30, 2011 from 7pm to 8:30pm
Location: Ravenna Eckstein Community Center- Teen Room
Street: 6535 Ravenna Ave NE
City/Town: Seattle Wa. 98115

Please contact us to RSVP or learn more about Local Tools.


Local Tools 1.7 Released with New Admin Dashboard

Local Tools 1.7 has been released with a brand new Admin Dashboard.  The new dashboard brings all commons tasks to one start page for administrators.  We’ll be adding additional reports and metrics, as well as simplifying the dashboard further.

This release also brings the ability to categorize tools by “use” (Carpentry & Woodworking, Yard & Garden, Electrical, Plumbing, etc.) in addition to by type of tool.  Check it out and let us know what you think!

New Features

  • [LEND-602] – Admin Dashboard
  • [LEND-642] – Change navigation link to Admin Dashboard / Default Home Page
  • [LEND-374] – Ability to choose from a set of specific tags/categories for each item
  • [LEND-381] – Show user’s (member’s) transactions on that member’s account
  • [LEND-493] – Email user upon checking out a tool
  • [LEND-494] – Email user upon checking in a tool
  • [LEND-495] – Consolidate email from check in then check out when user renews tools
  • [LEND-584] – Automatically email a receipt after each transaction
  • [LEND-597] – Add ability to upload PDF and additional image
  • [LEND-624] – Put “checkin/renew” on cart page

Bugs Fixed

  • [LEND-578] – Email at checkout and checkin doesn’t obey user opt-out request
  • [LEND-599] – Hitting return to filter users when filtering users to select one to check a tool out to goes to the wrong place in IE
  • [LEND-608] – Edit page for attribute types does not work
  • [LEND-613] – Cart says user has overdue items, when they do not seem to
  • [LEND-621] – Background color issues with new gray bgcolor
  • [LEND-622] – When editing items quotes (and probably other characters) are not being escaped properly
  • [LEND-623] – Loan reminder emails are not being sent out automagically
  • [LEND-631] – Checkin transactions don’t keep track of the loan that was checked in
  • [LEND-633] – When using the old check in to renew an item, the cart ends up with items in it from multiple users
  • [LEND-637] – When item types have default values set, they do not affect existing items without a manual reindex
  • [LEND-639] – Problems saving default values for tool types
  • [LEND-643] – On the money report, the sorted-by arrow points up while the data is sorted descending (arrow should point down)
  • [LEND-644] – On the Money Report, the second page (and subsequent pages) is order ascending, when it should be descending
  • [LEND-646] – Some transactions for memberships have no MembershipFees to tie the transaction to the membership transition.
  • [LEND-648] – Automatic email reminders possibly sending out notices for tools already returned
  • [LEND-649] – Error when trying to preview reminder email
  • [LEND-627] – Prevent adding the same item twice to the cart when renewing


  • [LEND-615] – Update default layout to use nicer card layout that the custom sites use
  • [LEND-614] – Improve email validation on create/edit user pages
  • [LEND-616] – Generate drop shadow behind inventory cards with css
  • [LEND-618] – Replace default favicon

Tasks Completed

  • [LEND-603] – Convert attribute value (and default value) fields to MEMO/TEXT/blob. 255 chars isn’t enought
  • [LEND-632] – Re-attach checkins with their corresponding transaction
  • [LEND-634] – Convert existing data to new TransactionLineItem model
  •  [LEND-625] – Open accordion for check in only when there are items to check in
  • [LEND-626] – Show “no items to check in” instead of empty “select item” table; remove “enter late fees” when there are no items to check in
  • [LEND-628] – Get the right amount for recommended donation when renewing

Making, Sharing and Collaboration Link Roundup

Welcome to our first roundup of recent links showing some of the great things going on in the making, sharing and collaborative consumption spaces:

If you find these links useful, definitely leave a comment and let us know.  Also feel free to let us know about other interesting projects.