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Borrowing is back at The Tool Library

After making the tough decision to close our doors on March 16th, volunteers at The Tool Library, a community nonprofit serving Buffalo and WNY since 2011, have been hard at work developing a way to re-open.  The goal was to continue to provide affordable access to tools while keeping the health and safety of all Tool Library members, volunteers, and the broader community as the top priority.

We sent out a survey to our members at the beginning of April asking about their needs, how they could contribute, and whether they would utilize a contactless tool borrowing system. An overwhelming majority of respondents (82%) said they would use a contactless borrowing system. Members where not only excited to tackle DIY projects around the house, but many spoke of the need to grow their own food as one way to increase their food security.

With this data in hand, Tool Library Board Members, volunteers, and our AmeriCorps VISTA began to formulate a plan of what a contactless borrowing system would look like. Utilizing advice from the CDC and best practices from other tool libraries around the country, the Tool Library To-Go program was born!

Tool Library To-Go allows members to call, click, or email their tool orders ahead of time and secure a pick-up time and date. Volunteers are then able to prep these orders for pick-up using The CoLab, a space next door to The Tool Library traditionally used for workshops, meetings, and pop-ups. Members can pick-up and return tools without having to interact with individuals face-to-face. Returned tools are sanitized and then placed in “tool quarantine” for 72 hours being returned to the inventory.

For a full rundown of updated operating procedures and hours of operation, please visit our Tool Library To-Go page.

While we’ll need to rethink what sharing looks like in a post-pandemic world, we believe that the sharing economy and local, on the ground examples like The Tool Library will be critical in rebuilding our communities to be more self-reliant, resilient, and better networked. Embracing a new normal where one borrows rather than buys and consumption and competition is replaced by sharing and collaboration.

To quote Peter Moskowitz,

“The more we practice intentional and community-oriented living, the less useful we will be as consumers.”


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Written by Darren Cotton

Darren Cotton

Darren has over a decade of experience in the fields of community development, urban planning, and information design. Working as Director of Community Development & Planning at the University District Community Development Association (UDCDA), Darren was responsible for writing and administering over $2 million in grant funding focused on commercial corridor revitalization, small business development, alternative transportation planning, historic preservation, public art, and community capacity building in Buffalo's University District. As a graduate student at the University at Buffalo, Darren founded The Tool Library, a community-based tool lending library, with an aim of providing affordable tool access and building the Sharing Economy in WNY. With a Bachelor's Degree in International Studies and Linguistics and a Master's Degree in Urban Planning from the University at Buffalo, Darren works to bridge the gap between research and policy through planning, design, and grassroots activism. and is a firm believer that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

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