SW Portland Tool Library – April 19 meeting notes


Hello Friends of the SW Portland Tool Library!

I wanted to keep everyone informed of our first meeting.

Thank you to all who came and participated in the meeting. We are off to a great start!

Honey O'Connor
SW Portland Tool Library

April 19th Meeting Notes:

Honey O'Connor opened the meeting with a greeting and brief history of tool libraries in the US.
Tool libraries are set up similar to libraries where people check out books and media. The only difference is tools are checked out instead of books. The first ones started in Columbus, Ohio (1976) and Berkeley, California (1979). There are approximately 28 tool libraries in the United States. Portland has one in North, NE, and SE. Most are volunteer run and are self supporting through fund raising and grants. They are run under a nonprofit or they form as an independent  nonprofit. Some charge a yearly fee, others don't have any fees, other than late fees. Some of the tool libraries even do basic tool classes. Each tool library has a different assortment of tools depending on tool donations and fund raising.

The most common tool categories are:
Gardening & Landscaping, Hand Tools, Power tools, Wood Working & Carpentry, Concrete & Masonry, Drywall, Painting, Mechanical, Electrical, Automotive, Bicycle, Plumbing, Drafting and Measuring, Moving, Safety, Floor & Wall.

Honey then introduced Steve Couche, a board member of SE Portland Uplift and the founder of the SE Portland Tool Library. He discussed how the process went to get the SE Portland Tool Library started. It took a year of planning and has been open 1 yr at this time. It's fiscal sponsor is SE Portland Uplift, a nonprofit coalition. He shared that we already had a great start with more people at our first meeting than theirs.

So far the SW Portland Tool Library has a logo, database, computer, 300 tools, and a 2 drawer filing cabinet.


  1. Types of tools, hand and electric. Gas powered are usually excluded due to liability.
  2. Liability issues. Tool Libraries have a liability waiver and contract stating the member knows how to operate the equipment and will notify the tool library/return tool immediately when a tool is not in working order. The tool library is falls under the nonprofit's insurance.
  3. How do they deal with broken tools? Volunteers who are knowledgeable help maintain tools or fund raising to pay for repair.
  4. Where do the tools come from? Tool Drives, donations, and fund raising.
  5. Discussion of 501-3C non profit applications vs. working under a coalitions’ umbrella. 
  6. Who staffs the tool library? volunteers in 3 hour shifts, usually open Saturdays 9-2 and 1 night a week, days and times to be determined.
  7. Does the tool library have nails/screws? No
  8. Small grants program – SWNI or City of Portland has small grants that can be applied for.
  9. Location? Honey has contacted a number of churches, Neighborhood House, and The Multnomah Arts Center without luck so far. We are looking for 600-1000 sq. feet, concrete flooring, electricity, parking, use of a bathroom for the volunteers, heat, an outside door,and the ability to attach tool hangers to the walls. Everyone is asked to keep their eyes and ears open for possibilities. Even a detached double car garage might be a possibility. We would need to negotiate since we have no funding at this time.
  10. Existing tool libraries have offered help…..tool donations,  database,  Forms; tax forms…etc.
  11. Database available through existing tool libraries, SEPTL is developing one with listing of all tools and whether or not the tool is available.
  12. Classes/Workshops to instruct on tool use and small projects; Bicycle maintenance, rain barrels, deck building, chicken coops, and greenhouses,  etc.  

Where do we go from here:

We have 48 people on the email list and 8 people who have offered to help the tool library get started. 

If you would like to help, let us know in what area you have an interest. We can use everyone's help.

Robert Hamilton, co-chair oh the Hillsdale Neighborhood Association offered to post the notes from the meeting on the website.
Gary Miniszewski volunteered to represent SW Portland Tool Library at May 4th Hillsdale NA meeting to present the idea.
Create a committee to get it off the ground….sign up for jobs, offer skills, etc.- in process
Website development needed.
Brochure development needed.
Looking for contractor’s who would like to be involved, helps us and it brings business for them.

Contact Free Geek for possibly getting a donated computer monitor.
Contact Rebuilding Center for materials to get the library ready for operation (shelving, brackets etc.)
Someone to take minutes for the next meeting.
Honey to contact those offering to help in helping with specific areas of interest.

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