Give DIY a Try with the West Philly Tool Library

What do Portland and Philadelphia have in common other than beginning with the letter “p”?

Tools.  Libraries full of tools.

No, we’re not talking about the sketchy people you often find wandering around inner-city libraries.  We’re talking about warehouses filled with power and hand tools that can be rented by any card-carrying, paying member.

The West Philly Tool Library, now in its third year of operation at 1314 South 47th Street, is home to approximately 3,000 tools available for lending.  The selection, ranging from power tools to hand tools, includes lawnmowers, cordless drills, saws, shovels, rakes and more.

For tool librarian Mimi Cheng, an average day in the tool library depends on the season.  A typical winter week will have the library serving between 30 and 35 people, but  in the summer, as many as 10 to 15 people a night will use the library’s services.

The numbers may not seem impressive, but for a non-profit organization open to the public for only 14 hours a week, the West Philly Tool Library does rather well.

“What has always impressed me,” says Cheng.  “Is what members have been able to accomplish with our tools.” A few impressive accomplishments that stand out in Cheng’s mind include two guys attempting to make a banjo from scratch and a young woman who rented a saw to cut a couch into pieces and put it back together so she could move it into her new, presumably cramped,  home.

To rent tools, one must be a member.  Registration for any organization or service can often be a daunting task, but the West Philly Tool Library makes it painless. “Registration takes 10 minutes,” says Cheng.

Two forms of identification and a membership fee of $20-$50 a year (your choice) gets you access to a wide variety of tools for one week at a time.  Lifetime memberships are a flat $200.

“Twenty bucks gets you as many tools as you need,” explains Cheng.  “Other, more commercial locations will rent you a jigsaw for 20 bucks a day.”

Members range from the Average Joe looking to do some home repairs on the cheap to contractors seeking to do larger jobs more cost-effectively.

“We’re really a neighborhood-oriented operation,” says Cheng.  “No one is making a buck off your membership.” In addition to its tool-lending services, the West Philly Tool Library offers tool workshops on the first Thursday of every month to teach people how to use the variety of tools in the warehouse.

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Jennifer Gregory

Jen is a senior Communications major at Holy Family University. A writer by nature, Jen is an aspiring journalist with many personal, creative side-projects happening simultaneously. When not writing, Jen can be found indulging in her other hobbies, which include but are not limited to, playing Magic: The Gathering, shooting photographs, and creeping around Philadelphia for inspiration. From time to time, she disappears from the real world and falls into the world of Star Wars: The Old Republic... because she’s cool like that. Follow her on Twitter for daily musings: @JL_Gregory

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