Berkeley Tool Lending Library – Berkeley, California - Atlas Obscura

Berkeley Tool Lending Library

Berkeley Public Library

Check out a shovel along with your Shakespeare. 

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You won’t find any shushing librarians at this library. Instead, you’ll find shelves packed with a medley of tools that will bring any construction project clanging to life.

Berkeley residents or property owners over the age of 18 can check out a variety of tools from this unusual library. Its most recent home is attached to the Berkeley Public Library’s South Branch, though the collection has lived elsewhere within the decades since it was founded.

The tool library was established in 1979, thanks to funding from a federal grant. It was first run out of a portable trailer that stocked about 500 different tools. Borrowing from the humble collection was free to those of low or moderate income, and cost between 50 cents to $3.00 for all others.

Over time, the library continued to grow, expanding into a small assembly of trailers and sheds. Now its thousands of tools fill a space right next to a more traditional, book-based library. And thanks to the city’s 1988 property-based library tax, borrowing a tool is free for any Berkeley resident or property owner.

The small hub is packed with rakes, shovels, demolition hammers, wheelbarrows, clippers, ladders, and even cement mixers, making it perfect for those who want to tackle a project but might not have the money or space for tools. It’s also a great way for people to take advantage of their tax dollars.

Most states don’t have tool lending libraries at all, but California’s Bay Area now has several, with libraries in Berkeley, Santa Rosa, Marin, San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Leandro, and Oakland.

Know Before You Go

The library is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday and from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday. Berkeley residents or property owners over the age of 18 who are able to show a recent utility bill/some other proof of residence are allowed to borrow tools. You can borrow a maximum of 10 items at once.