How to join the Louisville Tool Library lending community

Paul Faget believes that you don’t need to own a drill to drill a hole in the wall.

The same goes for the tile cutter that helped replace the backsplash in your kitchen, the eight-foot ladder you used to paint your living room, and even the large liquor dispenser that served punch to 30 people at the baby shower you threw.

Few homeowners need a shed, closet, or basement full of tools when so many things people store are used for only one project or infrequently.

That’s where the Louisville Tool Library at 1227 Logan St. comes in. The new Shelby Park-based nonprofit challenges modern consumption by promoting a credit economy. Just as people should have access to the culture of books and movies through traditional public libraries, this tool library creates the opportunity to repair and maintain your home without breaking your wallet, draining resources, or cluttering up your storage space.

If you want to read a book, you don’t have to buy it, finish reading it, and let it gather dust on your shelf.

For Faget and the other founding helpers there is no reason not to apply this concept to straightedges, paint rollers, hammers, chainsaws and plumber’s hoses.

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Four days had passed since the nonprofit’s grand opening when Faget welcomed me to the tool library along with co-founders Shelby Rodeffer, Lou Lepping, and John Cooper. For a $120 annual membership — or a staggering 0.1% of your income — you can rent up to 10 hand tools and two power tools each week. If you need more tools for a specific project, the volunteers are willing to break this rule and they will extend the rental even after a week as long as no one has put themselves on the waiting list for it.

“First priority is to make sure anyone who wants to be here can be here, and second priority is to keep the roof over their heads,” Rodeffer said.

The community has donated a few hundred tools to their cause since the nonprofit first took over the space this spring. When I toured the library last week, I saw the hammers, drills, staplers, handsaws, rakes, shovels, and hoses I expected, and many other curiosities I didn’t see. Think InstaPots, beer brew kits, sewing machines, LED selfie rings, cornhole boards, folding tables, and outdoor picnic kits.

Loaner tool libraries are not a new concept and there are more than 50 active in the United States, According to, a nonprofit that tracks them. In about a month since these local volunteers unveiled their concept in Louisville, they’ve encountered extreme generosity as people donated their inventory, but also questions — mostly about why they’re so sure they’re seeing all of these rental properties will again.

To be honest, they aren’t.

Some things will disappear and some things will break. That’s how the world works.

But that doesn’t mean they should focus on that potential loss or that they can’t do much good in between.

“You have to unlearn a lot of things to get into the mindset of borrowing,” Rodeffer explained. “You have to reframe your mind to be generous and to believe that if you put something out, someone will get something out – that they will put something in, too.”

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It helps that the community they serve is the one that added donations to the collection.

“All of this came from the community,” said Faget, who donated 40 of his own tools to the library. “It’s a lot easier for us to look at this collection and say, ‘If something breaks and something doesn’t come back, that’s not the end of the world.'”

They’ve already reviewed a handful of tools and started making a wish list of what they might need in the future.

A woman walked in with a photo on her phone not sure what she needed to put something together and they were able to give her the correct Allen key. A couple of neighbors had discussed doing drywall patching and one was interested in upholstery work and they were able to put rents together for these projects.

Another guest wondered if they had scaffolding to replace the vinyl on a historic home. They don’t have that in stock yet, but it was the kind of request that got the group thinking about what gaps they can fill in the long term.

There are many of them and many go beyond the idea of ​​building. They strive to provide tools for cleanups and building projects hosted by other nonprofit organizations. They carry seeds from the Louisville Seed Bank for library members to take and grow.

High on the list of priorities is transforming the library into a community space. As they are run entirely by volunteers, they are currently only open to the public on Wednesday evenings and Saturday lunchtimes. Nonetheless, they have set up a puzzle table in the back and a selection of books to borrow or read on site. You want the library to be a “third space,” a place outside of your home or work where you can participate in the community. They hope to hire a full-time librarian to run operations by the end of the year, and they’re excited to host classes on using the tools they have. They want to be a resource where people can learn to tackle minor plumbing and electrical jobs.

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The group is also keenly aware that many people who need access to tools may have transportation barriers. Once the library is more established, they would like to have return days where they bring loans to neighborhoods south and west of Louisville. Eventually, Rodeffer hopes they have enough local support to have branches in other parts of the community.

The team places a strong emphasis on being community and local business oriented. They do not attempt to substitute local hardware stores and when their members need materials they refer them to Keith’s Hardware at 1201 Bardstown Road in the Highlands or Oscar’s Germantown Hardware at 1515 S. Shelby St.

Overall, however, the library’s mission is to reduce waste, provide education, provide resources, and build a community.

Every lending library should do this, they say. A space like this creates the freedom to explore in a way that’s not necessarily encouraged in a traditional retail outlet.

You don’t worry about a win. They focus on helping people help themselves.

“Anybody can try something without so much effort and so much expense,” Cooper said. “The benefit of a library is the freedom to browse and get answers, that’s the freedom of any library. I hope people come here with the convenience to browse.”

Features columnist Maggie Menderski writes about what makes Louisville, southern Indiana and Kentucky unique, wonderful and occasionally weird. If you have something in your family, your town, or even your closet that fits that description, she wants to hear from you. Say hello to [email protected] or 502-582-4053. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter @MaggieMenderski.

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