Cedar Park: West Philly Tool Library Helps Residents with Home Improvement

Kathleen O'Donnell helped a customer at the front desk.

Kathleen O'Donnell helped a customer at the front desk.
Tool librarian Kathleen O’Donnell helped a member at the front desk of the West Philly Tool Library.

The changing of seasons can mean many different things, but to West Philly Tool Library, it means a change of inventory.

“This time of year we have a lot of gardening tools,” said Kathleen O’Donnell, full-time tool librarian.

West Philly Tool Library, located at 1314 S. 47th St., has been a staple in its neighborhood since 2007, providing tools and hardware rentals for an income-based membership fee of $20 to $50. Members can choose from a wide array of carpentry, plumbing, gardening and even bicycle-fixing tools to rent for a week.

Since local residents have many home improvement projects to take care of, O’Donnell said there is no “hard and fast rule about how many tools you can take out.” Members have rented out equipment for projects ranging from restoring neighborhood cemeteries to building musical instruments.

Though the library recently received a large grant from State Farm, many of the tools are donated and about 30 percent of the organization’s income is obtained from membership fees and late fees. The rest of it is obtained from fundraisers held by the library’s steering committee, which meets every other month, and from community sponsors such as Woodland Building Supply, the University of the Sciences and PhillyCarShare.

“We’re working on becoming more self-sufficient,” O’Donnell said, adding that the library may soon start selling consumable products such as sandpaper.

For those wishing to give back to the Tool Library, the second Saturday of every month is volunteer work day. The organization is mostly volunteer-run, but O’Donnell and one other person are employed as tool librarians and there is also a part-time administrative tool fixer.

O’Donnell, who is a woodworker and self-proclaimed lifetime member of the Tool Library, has found the organization helpful not only to herself, but to the community at large.

“It helps people keep a roof over their heads,” she said. “It’s incredible for people like me who don’t have a big budget.”

In addition to its physical location, West Philly Tool Library runs a blog-style website which is updated regularly to let members know helpful and seasonally-appropriate tips for better home and yard improvement. The site is also home to a small discussion forum where members can ask for advice and recommend equipment to each other.

For more information on West Philly Tool Library and how to become a member, go to its website at www.westphillytools.org.

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