Community Tool Sheds Bloom

For those of us without a tool shed out back or a fully stocked workshop down in the basement, the only way to get a drain snake or a rotary impact drill when you need one - and who doesn't need one sometimes? - is to buy or rent.

Actually, there is another way: the little known but growing number of nonprofit tool libraries which let you check out tools - from screwdrivers to belt saws - for free. It's like a lending library for books. Just walk in, find what you need, and you're ready to pound your thumb with a hammer.

Tool libraries are not all that new; they've been around since the 70s in progressive, early green cities like Berkeley, California (and also in Columbus, Ohio). But now, as the bad economy sucks the life out of even home chores, consumers want to save rather than have to spend on an expensive wet tile saw they'll use once. That means tool libraries are getting some much-deserved attention and more traffic.

Ever-so-cool and eco-friendly Portland is about to open its third tool library, the Oregonian reports, and others can be found in Seattle, San Francisco, Philly, Kansas City and Atlanta, among around 25 locales.

Which tools, you may ask, get borrowed the most?

In San Francisco it's about power. We don't know why, but there's a big demand for electric jackhammers (are San Franciscans tearing up the streets in their spare time?) In Portland, more women borrow than men.

Tool libraries score high on many fronts. They're free. They cut down on buying stuff you only need occasionally, like a nail gun. They promote sustainability. And you get the wonderful feeling of sharing with your community. It's practically Socialism - with a chainsaw. May a thousand tool libraries bloom.
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