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North Hills Monthly

Millvale Tool Library Saves Users Money, Teaches Skills

Feb 29, 2020 10:52AM ● By Kathleen Ganster

Any home remodeling or repair project can quickly become expensive, especially if you have to buy new tools. Enter the Millvale Tool Library. 

Part of the Millvale Community Library, it works like the “regular” library, except instead of books, patrons can borrow tools from their collection. 

“We launched in June 2018 and have grown into a collection of more than 600 lendable hand and power tools for building, plumbing, gardening, automotive and bike repair, cleaning and more,” said Millvale Tool Library Administrator Dan Malakoff. 

The most popular selections are hammer drills, power saws, ladders, plumbing snakes, wheelbarrows, pole saws, string trimmers and car jacks. And it isn’t just lending tools; the library helps patrons learn how to use the tools and create projects such as bat houses and Little Free Libraries.

“This inventory of tools also provides the foundation for educational workshops and volunteer-driven community projects,” said Malakoff.

The library opened after more than a year of collecting tools and raising funds to make it a reality. 

“More than 70 people donated approximately 90 percent of our tools; these were often retiring tradespeople or, in the case of posthumous donors, their families who wanted to leave a legacy for the community,” said Malakoff. The library also received funding from the Pittsburgh Foundation to purchase new tools.

Malakoff was already familiar with the concept behind the library. “A lot of cities have tool libraries—some even date back to the 1970s and ‘80s, so Pittsburgh was behind the curve on this,” he explained. 

After assisting a friend with a remodeling project who borrowed tools from a library in Philadelphia, Malakoff was sold on the idea. “It was amazing to me that we could go to a library and borrow the tools,” he said. “As a new homeowner, he would have had to pay thousands of dollars for tools that he might only need to use once.” 

In addition to the cost-saving measures, a tool library helps patrons expand their knowledge and skill sets and is good for the environment. “Tools get a second life,” said Malakoff. 

When Cherelle Wilkins of Sharpsburg discovered the tool library via Facebook, she said that she thought it was “the best idea ever,” and became a frequent patron.

“I've enjoyed power tools since I was a kid, and a year ago, I started making furniture and toys for my daughter,” she said. “I love the idea that I get a chance to use tools I would not otherwise have access to.”

There are numerous advantages of the tool library. 

“We have very limited space and only so many tools that I can store at home, so the idea of being able to borrow tools for free was perfect for me,” said Wilkins. “Plus, I've been able to save so much money by borrowing tools.” 

Patrons must have a library card issued by one of Allegheny County’s 46 libraries and complete an additional membership form at the Millvale Community Library prior to checking out a tool. The library has binders with photos and descriptions of the tools to help with selections. Patrons must also sign a liability form. 

“You can borrow tools for a week and up to five tools at a time. You can renew a tool as long as someone isn’t on the waiting list,” Malakoff explained. 

The tool library has been very popular. 

“On average, we've been checking out 25 tools a week. In a typical week, the tools we lend might be worth up to $2,250, representing a significant savings to borrowers,” Malakoff said. There are currently more than 200 members of the Millvale Tool Library, which is overseen by 14 volunteers including Malakoff. 

Wilkins was so impressed with the library that she quickly became one of those vital volunteers. “I wanted to be involved in something I believe in,” she said. 

For more information about the Millvale Tool Library visit https://www.facebook.com/millvaletoollibrary.