'Tool Library' Concept Comes to St. Paul

Photo: Photo: Saint Paul Tool Library/Facebook

August 17, 2016 11:42 AM

St. Paul residents who don’t want to pay for expensive tools they will likely only use once or twice may have a new option.

Community members are coming together to create a Saint Paul Tool Library.


About six months ago, St. Paul resident John Bailey said he needed a tall ladder but was shocked at the price tag when he went to a hardware store to get one. He said he realized that other people in the community were in the same boat, and the idea formed to create a tool library in the capitol city.

“I’m passionate because I think it’s a waste of money and resources to buy things we use one time,” Bailey said. “It makes a lot more sense to set up a system to borrow things when you need them and not have to worry about buying them.”

The concept isn’t brand new; the Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library opened last year and now has more than 400 members.

Bailey said he contacted the Minneapolis group and asked if they were interested in starting one in St. Paul, and he learned that other people had been asking that same question.

“They said they would be happy to help us start this,” Bailey said.

The St. Paul group is partnering with the Minneapolis group, which allows them to use NEMTL’s nonprofit status, share their insurance policy and use their experience to make the new group a success.

Once Bailey decided to establish the Saint Paul Tool Library, he said he posted notes on neighborhood pages to see who would be interested in joining, and they started their first committee meetings back in January.

How It Works

The Saint Paul Tool Library will be a membership-based nonprofit that aims to provide low-cost access to more than 1,000 tools. Membership will cost $55 per year, and that allows members to use as many tools as they want for the year.

Members will be able to check out tools for a week at a time, but they can be kept longer if no one else is waiting to use them. The tool library will function just like a regular library, where members could face late fees if the tool isn’t returned promptly.

Tools will include tile cutters, air compressors, saws, drills, gardening tools and ladders, among other items. Members will also be able to view the inventory online, saving them a trip to the library to see if the tool they need is even available.

The goal is to also offer classes to teach members how to use the tools they’re borrowing.

Funding the Saint Paul Tool Library

This spring, the Knight Foundation awarded the group what is essentially a $10,000 grant. The first $5,000 is given as straight funding. After that, the foundation will double community members’ donations, up to $5,000.

To raise the rest of the money, the group turned to a crowdfunding platform called In Our Back Yard, or Ioby, which is specifically centered on community projects. That crowdfunding campaign launched Tuesday.

As of Wednesday morning, the group has raised $6,720 of the total $12,910 budget. The project deadline is Sept. 17, and the goal is to open the library this fall.

Bailey said they haven’t signed a lease yet but that things “look good.” The organizers hope to move into the former American Can Factory building on Prior Avenue near West Chelton Avenue once they raise the necessary money.

After they sign the lease, Bailey said they will begin the tool donation phase of the project.

Bailey said 85 percent of the tools in the Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library have been donated, and he hopes to see similar numbers at the St. Paul location.

“People have garages full of tools they’re not using and would love to donate them,” Bailey said. “We believe we can get that same percentage in St. Paul.”

Once they sign the lease and gather the tools, they will set up shop.

You can donate to the campaign here.


Jennie Lissarrague

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