West Philly Tool Library

West Philly Tool Library Photo credit: Heather A. Davis

WHAT: The West Philly Tool Library is a lending library for home and garden tools.

WHERE: The Library is located at 4620 Woodland Ave. It is open on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., and on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

MISSION: “The West Philly Tool Library serves to provide tools to community members to improve houses, beautify blocks and do projects that they otherwise wouldn’t do,” says Michael Froehlich, a member of the Library Steering Committee.

WHAT’S IN STOCK: The Library currently offers more than 1,000 tools for rent—wheelbarrows and paint rollers, hammers and wood chisels, a nail gun and tile saw. The most popular tools include such big-ticket items as circular saws, weed wackers and extension ladders. All tools can be borrowed for one week with a $1 per-tool, per-day late fee.

WHERE THE TOOLS COME FROM: Many of the smaller items for rent have been donated, and the Steering Committee purchases many of the larger items. “We purchase tools based on what people ask for,” says Froehlich. The Library has also received numerous in-kind donations, including lumber from Woodland Building Supply to construct the interior shelving and the building space at no cost from developer Guy Laren.

BECOME A MEMBER: To rent tools, you must first sign up for membership, which anyone over 18 years old with a photo I.D. can do. Though the Library has West Philly in its name, anyone—not just locals—can sign up for membership. The annual fee of $20 pays for a general membership; a lifetime membership costs $200 and a founding membership runs $500 to $1,000. The Library currently has 270 members.

BASIC KNOW-HOW: The Library prefers members have some basic know-how about the tools before they rent them from the Library. “We can show people how to use them, but they do need to have a certain level of knowledge,” says Froehlich. In other words, don’t go renting a compound mitre saw unless you’re pretty sure how to use it. If you’re in need of a tutorial, you can sign up for the Library’s six-week class in April at the Community Education Center, located at 3500 Lancaster Ave. Topics include an overview of tools, basic plumbing and electric work, painting, carpentry and drywall.

INSPIRATION FROM AFAR: Froehlich previously lived in Seattle and San Francisco, both of which had their own tool libraries. So Froehlich decided “there was no reason why West Philly shouldn’t have one.” Since its founding, the Library has gotten calls from York, Pa. and Pittsburgh residents interested in setting up tool libraries of their own.

MORE INFO: For a complete list of tools and information on becoming a member, visit the website: www.westphillytools.org.

Originally published on March 5, 2009