Boeing layoffs hit Seattle hard in the early 1970s. As a result, Roger Faris noticed that friends and neighbors were constantly lending and borrowing tools for DIY projects on Phinney Ridge. Faris thought, 'Why don’t we have some kind of co-op or collective for tool-sharing?'
And so, the Phinney Neighborhood Association Tool Lending Library was born. (Fun fact: Founded in 1977, it’s the oldest tool library in the country!)
The idea of the tool library is simple: Have a tool you need to use for a project, but don’t want to buy it (because you’re likely to only use it once or a few times)? Instead of purchasing the item, you rent it from the tool library. You pick it up, use it for your project, and return it - it’s as simple as that.
It’s a program for neighbors to help neighbors, says Krissie Dillin, Program Director for the Phinney Neighborhood Association (PNA). The library is run by a knowledgeable staff person and faithful volunteers and has grown to an impressive inventory of tools over the years. Dillin points out, "Why would you buy something if you didn’t have to?"
Here’s how it works: In order to borrow from the library, you must be a member of the Phinney Neighborhood Association. Once a member, most tool rentals range from $1-10 per week. Check out the online inventory to see what’s available, and then pick up your rentals during open hours. Tape measures, power drills, socket sets, grinders, saws, clamps - you name it, they probably have it.
But the tool library is so much more than a massive shed filled with tools. At the tool library, neighbors meet neighbors and share about their projects. When you go to pick up a tool, a volunteer or fellow tool-borrower may help you realize that you actually need a different tool for the project you’re working on. For most borrowers, you don’t just run in and out of the library with your tool - you get advice, learn how other people are doing projects (and might make some changes to your own!), and enjoy the community.
And it probably goes without saying that utilizing the tool library reduces project costs and your environmental impact. You save money, keep your garage free from unused items, and share commonly-used equipment with your local community.
You don’t have to be a homeowner to use the tool library, and you don’t have to have specific experience with tools. Anyone is welcome to join and use the variety of tools available. (On a side note, if you’re interested in woodworking, and want to share tools and knowledge just like you do at the tool library, check out the Community Woodshop that the PNA is just launching!)
Not in the Phinney Ridge area? Not to worry! There are a number of tool libraries in Seattle. They are operated independently, but share the same principle: Share, don’t buy, tools.
Check out the tool library nearest you, and get started on those DIY projects you’ve been putting off because you didn’t have the right equipment.