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Why buy when you can borrow from new Seattle tool library

The newly opened NE Seattle Tool Library offers dozens of tools from circular saws to extension ladders to check out for free. (Josh Kerns/ photo)

Over the holidays, I needed to hang some Christmas lights on the eaves of our new house. They’re a little high, but I figured my old 6-foot ladder would be good enough. I could have also used a staple gun, but was too cheap to spring for one. Bad mistake. As I stood on the top rung to hammer a nail, the ladder gave and I hit the deck, tweaking my knee.

It turns out I didn’t have to go through any of that, if I’d simply borrowed an extension ladder and tools from the new NE Seattle Tool Library.

Just like its name says, the library is a place you can borrow all sorts of tools, from ladders to circular saws and just about everything in between.

“There’s a lot of tools that people just don’t really need to own. So this provides a way for the community to share the resources we have together,” says Susan Gregory, one of the organizers of the new library.

As we stand in the converted church storage building with neatly organized and cataloged tools on one side, a small workshop with several table saws and drills on the other, Gregory beams with pride at the all-volunteer project that took a year to bring to fruition. It all stemmed from a brainstorm as Gregory and others in the neighborhood tried to come up with a community project that would land a $50,000 grant from Cleanscapes for their organization Sustainable NE Seattle.

Gregory had seen a similar tool library in West Seattle and figured why not in Ravenna?

“You know a lot of times people will say ‘I have a pressure washer, I’ve used it twice, I don’t really need it. I got it for a project, I don’t need it and other people could be using it.'”

But it turns out there’s an ulterior motive. Gregory admits the tool library is about more than just tools. She and the other founders are passionate about the environment and reducing our impact on the earth.

“You know, there doesn’t have to be an extension ladder in every household, so that cuts down on the amount of aluminum, it cuts down on driving to the Home Depot to buy it. Sorry Home Depot, but it cuts down maybe a little bit on the amount of money people spend,” she says.

That’s not to say the NE Seattle Tool Library is looking to put Home Depot out of business. In keeping with their green ethos, they won’t be lending any gas powered tools like blowers and chain saws.

And Gregory says she’s confident as people get more handy thanks to the library, they’ll actually turn to the hardware stores for more supplies and heavier equipment when they need it, so it’s a win-win.

The Tool Library also offers a variety of how-to books, and will soon offer workshops.

To use the Tool Library, all you have to do is sign up for a membership online. It’s free to join and check out tools. But they are encouraging donations. They’d also love any of your unused tools, which of course you can borrow whenever you want.

“We’re off to a good start, but hoping for a lot more donations,” Gregory says.

I just wish I’d known they had an extension ladder, before my Christmas light catastrophe.

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