hammersThe Oakland Tool Lending Library opened in 2000, funded by an $81,000 Community Development Block Grant, and initially restricted to use by District 1 residents.  Ty Yurgelevic was hired to manage the TLL.  It started with 325 tools, and was open three days a week.

By the end of 2000, there were about 50 registered users, and monthly checkouts had increased to about 400 per month.  In 2001, the City funded the TLL with a one-time Special Enhancement grant of $75,000.

In 2002, the TLL was brought under the public library system, with service modeled on the tool lending library operated by the City of Berkeley since 1979.  Access was expanded to all Oakland residents with a library card (and to residents of Emeryville and Piedmont, by agreement with those cities).

Over the next ten years, the TLL’s inventory and circulation increased dramatically.  The TLL quickly maxed out its 600 square foot operational space in the basement of the Temescal Library Branch.  In 2011, a rented shipping container was placed in the parking area in front of the TLL to provide another 124 square feet of storage space.[1]

bitsIn 2012, in an effort to better meet demand, the check-out period was extended to four days, and a hold system was added that allows patrons to place a hold on a tool without lining up in person when the TLL opens.  Between 2005 and September 2013, the TLL was open four days per week.  In September 2013, a fifth opening day was added.  The total inventory is now over 3,500 tools.

The TLL budget makes up a tiny portion of the total library budget, which includes staffing (one full-time Senior Library Assistant, one full-time Library Assistant (currently vacant), and six shifts per week for temporary-part-time employees), and about $18,000 earmarked for tool acquisition and repair.  Borrowing has always been free, although overdue fines are significantly more than for books.  Lost and damaged tools are not a significant impediment to TLL operation.

In 2010, a group of TLL patrons organized as the Friends of the Tool Lending Library.  FOTLL has helped organize volunteers and classes, worked with the library administration to increase hours and improve service, and raised several thousand dollars from tool sales to the public.

[1] The TLL has storage space in a back room of the Temescal basement (about 170 square feet), and also a room in the West Oakland Branch where several hundred power tools await repair or maintenance.