Vancouver Tool Library Takes the Storage Problem out of Home Renovations

Tired of buying tools you'll only ever use once? The Vancouver Tool Library provides a unique solution.

Credit: Vancouver Tool Library

The Vancouver Tool Library provides an alternative to all those expensive and dust-collecting tools in your garage

It’s the oldest (and perhaps most clichéd) rule of home repair: you need the right tool for the right job. But as any self-helper can tell you, after finishing that right job, your right tool often sits in your garage collecting dust.

Vancouver Tool Library


3448 Commercial Drive, Vancouver


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The Vancouver Tool Library (VTL) hopes to provide an elegant solution to the problem. The community service co-op lends out a large variety of tools for home renovation, landscaping, plumbing and bicycle maintenance.


Slated to open sometime in mid-July, the VTL operates like any other library: you visit their Commercial Street shop and take out any tool that you need for a set period of time. If you need the tool for more time, you can get an extension provided no one else has requested it.


A one-time membership fee costs $20 and annual fees range from $15 to $30.


Tool library helps solve that pesky storage problem

According to VTL communications coordinator Caitlin Dorward, the VTL can help DIY fans solve two simple dilemmas: buying tools that will be used sparingly and finding a place to keep them.


“In Vancouver, a lot of people live in apartments and just don’t have the storage space to have a big [table] saw, for example,” says Dorward. “If you want to do a project, you need storage space for those tools. If you don’t have [the tools] you have to go to the tool rental shop where it’s very expensive to rent on a daily basis. We’re saving people the cost of buying and the cost of renting.”


The Vancouver Tool Library’s 600-square foot space houses big-ticket items like table saws and pressure washers as well as basic tools like hammers, wrenches and hand drills.


The tools in their shop came via donations, but the co-op has secured funds to buy new items as they see fit. Dorward notes that several donors are also members, meaning that they still have access to their donated tools without having to worry about storing them.


The Vancouver Tool Library hopes to appeal to a broad rangen of DIYers.

Origins of the tool library

Dorward, partner Chris Diplock, and a group of friends were inspired to set up the tool library after learning about similar co-ops throughout North America. One of the first tool libraries opened in Columbus, Ohio back in 1976. Today, it houses more than 4,500 tools.


Dorward and other VTL organizers recently joined Portland tool library volunteers in the Village Building Convergence, a 10-day volunteer work project that attracts DIY aficionados from throughout the area. During their time in the Rose City, the VTL team learned new building techniques and got their hands dirty helping construct a cob oven for a local community group.


Dorward hopes to bring similar community engagement to their Vancouver project. They plan on hosting several workshops for people of varying skill levels, including a beginner’s workshop where members build basic planters that can be used at a nearby community garden.


A service that appeals to a broad range of people

VTL organizers understand that part of building community is servicing people who may have no interest in building community. Dorward says the Tool Library is designed to appeal to a broad range of people, many of whom will use it for strictly practical reasons.


She does hope, however, that people will think of the VTL as not just a tool repository, but also a place to exchange information and ideas.


“The reasons why people are coming are very diverse,” says Dorward. “People are attracted to it for different reasons but once they come, they’re going to learn about other stuff. “