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Portland's Enviable Tool Libraries Portland's Enviable Tool Libraries

Portland's Enviable Tool Libraries

by Andrew Price
January 14, 2010

Well, Portland does it again. It's now the first city to have three tool libraries. A tool library, for those who are new to the idea, is exactly what it sounds like: A central place that has a bunch of tools-power drills and post-hole diggers and industrial vacuums and the like-available for members to borrow for free.The idea of a tool library makes sense for a variety of reasons. Repairing things or building them oneself is more efficient, and often more fun, than buying something new. Tool libraries let people who can't afford expensive tools take on these projects.But there's also just an enormous wasted capacity in a neighborhood's collective store of tools. If a neighborhood has a power drill in every third house, but each household only ever needs a power drill once every few months, that's a hell of a lot of wasted power-drilling potential. But if an entire neighborhood shares one or two drills, each drill gets more use and the world isn't flooded with tons of redundant stuff.A few weeks ago we needed to replace the padding under some carpet in my house and spent $50 on nail guns that we probably won't use for another year. It was still cheaper than paying someone else to do it, but I would have felt a lot better about getting nail guns from a tool library.Portland's tool libraries have hundreds of tools each (and hundreds of members) and are staffed and supported by donated time and money. If you want to find one in your town, check this Wikipedia list.
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