A person screwing a screw into a piece of wood

What is a tool library?

06 Apr 21 3 minute read

Libraries. They have that reassuring smell of well-read pages, are peaceful, have free internet and, of course, books galore.

But guess what? There’s a new kind of library sweeping the nation - a tool library - and it’s just as cool, but in all sorts of different ways.

Borrowing is the new buying

It’s often said that the average electric drill is only used for 11 minutes in its entire lifetime. 11 minutes.

Granted, it doesn’t take that long to drill a hole, but still – that’s crazy. Yet the majority of households have one. Even though DIY is actually a really infrequent activity for most people.

What if you could just borrow tools when you need them, and drop them back so that they can be used by someone else all the time you’re not DIY-ing? Well, in some parts of Scotland, you now can.

Membership-based tool sharing services are popping up in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, Linlithgow and Cumbernauld. The Share & Repair Network is a tool library that allows members to borrow items rather than buying new. 

They work just like a normal library but instead of books, you can borrow a massive range of tools and equipment when you need them, then drop them back when you’re done.

Borrowing from a tool library means there’s no need to store, maintain or buy your own tools in the first place. #HowToWasteLess

Tried and tested

Zero Waste Scotland’s Andrew Pankhurst recently renovated his house using the Stirling Tool Library, “It’s amazing. It had all the tools I was looking for, and some I didn’t even realise I needed.

“When I took up the psychedelic 60s floor tiles that were lurking underneath the laminate floor in the kitchen, I was left with the lumpiest nightmare of rock-hard old tile adhesive you could imagine. It was like the surface of the moon. I popped into the tool library and asked to borrow a chisel to get it smooth.

They said “You don’t want a chisel. You want a pneumatic chisel.”

“What a revelation – a super-powerful scaled-down version of the pneumatic drill you see road workers juddering about digging up the pavement. A job that would have taken about three painstaking weeks was over and done within one (very noisy) afternoon. Wonderful, but would I ever need a pneumatic chisel ever again? Almost certainly not.”

Tool library tools are mainly donated, repaired and saved from going to landfill. #HowToWasteLess


Save money, save space, save the environment

And that’s the beauty of a tool library. Borrow a tool, use it for one afternoon at a fraction of the cost of buying it and instead of it cluttering up your house gathering dust, it’s back off to a busy life of chiselling all across town, week in week out (probably).

The tools available to borrow are mainly received as donations. The tool library will then repair them if needed and PAT test for safety ready to be borrowed and saved from going to landfill.

So next time you have a job to do around the house, why not borrow rather than buy? Here’s a list of all the tool libraries in place in Scotland so far:

Coronavirus update: Check with your local tool library to find out if lending services are currently suspended.

Stirling Tool Library has over 300 items available to borrow from sewing machines and cooking equipment to saws, drills and gardening tools.

(Glasgow) Southside Tool Library is based at South Seeds - a community organisation on Victoria Road, Glasgow.

Glasgow Tool Library, located in North Glasgow the tool library also hosts classes, workshops and events to share DIY and sustainability skills and knowledge.

Edinburgh Tool Library was the UK’s first tool library!

East Linton Tool Library 

Recykillin - Falls Of Dochart, Killin

Transition Linlithgow began in 2008 as Linlithgow Climate Challenge and now has a number of great projects on the go including the tool library, Linlithgow Active Travel Hub and Plastic-Free Linlithgow.