West Philadelphia: The Tool Library

Eugene Weaver dedicates his evenings to the West Philly Tool Library to help residents find the tools they need.

Most people who come across The West Philly Tool Library, located at 4620 Woodland Ave., believe the shop is selling tools. When they enter the small row home housing the nonprofit, Eugene Weaver is there to clarify.

“I take that as my opportunity to deliver our little sales pitch about becoming a tool library member,” he said.

Eugene Weaver dedicates his evenings to the West Philly Tool Library to help residents find the tools they need.

The tool library allows residents to borrow tools to fix up their homes or even their neighborhoods. At $20 for a yearly membership, the residents gain access to 2,200 tools, founder Mike Froehlich said.

Most of the tools are donated by many of the members, he added.

Weaver is one of the few paid employees of the tool library, who is there to meet and greet each member coming to select or return tools.

“It’s the only capital cost for the project,” Weaver said.

Membership and late fees go right into the operation, he added.

While living on the West Coast, Froehlich came across tool libraries in several different California cities across the state. When he moved to Philadelphia he brought the idea with him, giving the residents access to much needed tools for home repairs and neighborhood revitalization projects.

Despite the gloomy weather, the playground built using tools from the library was in full use

After two years of mostly word-of-mouth advertising and brochure passing, The West Philly Tool Library has over 600 members, Froehlich said.

“Some of my favorite folks are people who come in, and I ask them what they’re borrowing and they’ve built a chicken coop in their backyard,” Froehlich said.

“I was talking to somebody on Saturday who just built several composite bins that she was going to give away to her friends,” he added.

New member Letele O’Harris joined the tool library so that he’d have tools for tree tending, he said.

The tool library has 2,200 tools, ranging from shovels and ladders to Shop-Vacs and power saws.

Certified by the Philadelphia Horticulture Society, he sees the organization as another way of continuing to practice green advocacy.

“This is a perfect example because they’re taking something that’s needed in the community that nobody is offering,” O’Harris said. “They’re recycling it in a way because this [SIC] is people’s tools.”

Overall, the organization is aiming to help residents protect and maintain their largest equities; their homes, Froehlich said.

Other projects embarked upon include a playground at 47th and Sansom streets as well as a number of chicken coops, Weaver said.

The tool library also offers instructional classes, funded by grants and taught by local contractors, on how to use the tools as well as how to fix common leaks and breaks, Froehlich said.

There is also a small assortment of books that members can use for reference.

Currently, West Philly Tool Library is the only one of its kind in Pennsylvania. There are three other locations on the East Coast: in Tacoma outside of Washington, D.C., Buffalo, N.Y., and Baltimore, Md., Froehlich said.

For more information, see the library’s website.


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