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Bridgeport, Chinatown, McKinley Park

The Chicago Tool Library Planning A Move After Growing So Fast It’s Run Out Of Space For Donations

The tool library, which allows members to borrow tools or devices, has more than 1,500 members and is growing. Its organizers are looking for a bigger space to hold "twice as many tools."

The Chicago Tool Library indoor space with some of the tools available to be borrowed.
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BRIDGEPORT — A Bridgeport library where people can borrow tools is looking to expand.

Tessa Vierk and Jim Benton founded the Chicago Tool Library, 1048 W. 37th St., in August 2019. The nonprofit gives members the chance to borrow tools instead of buying them or hiring someone for jobs they could do themselves.

When it opened, the tool library had about 150 members. Two years later, it has more than 1,500 members from all over the city. The 1,000-square-foot library offers more than 2,500 tools, ranging from garden hoses to microphones.

The demand for the library’s services has become so high Vierk and Benton are scoping out potential new locations that can hold “twice as many tools.” They said they don’t have anything nailed down yet, but they hope to relocate next spring to somewhere that can “serve everybody better” and be closer to public transportation, Vierk said.

“Right now, we’re not really transit-accessible. We’d like to be a little better to commit to our mission of being an equitable resource,” Vierk said.

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The Chicago Tool Library’s entrance sign.

The nonprofit is run by volunteers and works just like a traditional library.

People have to sign up for a library card and pay an annual fee to borrow the tools. It’s a pay-what-you-can model, with no standard or minimum payments. Members can borrow as many tools as they want for seven days, with the chance to ask for renewals. You can become a member online.

Chicago Tool Library thrived during the pandemic, keeping volunteers “super busy,” Vierk said.

“People borrowed ice cream makers and pasta machines to cook with their families. Or camping equipment for outdoor trips,” Vierk said.

Most of the tools in the library have been donated. Right now, the owners are turning down donations because of lack of space.

“Probably 90 percent of the tools we have have been donated,” Vierk said. “A lot of people own too many things, and they would give their tools to us. So we have too many offers for tools that we don’t have the space to accept.”

Spaces like the tools library promote equity, and they give residents more access to tools that promote community resilience, disaster preparedness and sustainability, Vierk said.

If you want to become a volunteer for The Chicago Tool Library, you can apply here.

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