Tool Library sets $10,000 fund-raising goal

Posted: August 31, 2014

The West Philly Tool Library has launched a $10,000 crowdfunding campaign to keep its membership fees low and buy new tools.

Since 2007, the Tool Library has helped homeowners save thousands of dollars on tools they would otherwise have to buy; instead they borrow.

The Tool Library lends 1,200 tools to members every month, a 35 percent increase over last year, said director Peter Foreman-Murray. Since its founding, the library has grown to 1,700 members.

"Trouble is, we can't meet the demand," said Foreman-Murray. "We can barely keep the lights on, so we haven't been able to buy tools we need."

So the library started an Indiegogo funding campaign to keep membership fees low - currently a sliding scale of $20 to $50 a year, depending on income.

The library is a fixture in West Philadelphia, currently occupying 1314 S. 47th St., a warehouse on the east side of South 47th about 200 feet south of Woodland Avenue.

"To keep our services affordable for our neighbors who need it most, we need partners and investors," Foreman-Murray added.

"We're raising $10,000 through this campaign so we can buy more of the tools our members need most, expand our education and outreach programs, and increase the number of community members." They had raised almost $7,000 by mid-August.

Memberships fund a third of the $40,000 annual operating budget. The balance is funded by the Urban Affairs Coalition, Woodland Building Supply, the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, the Philadelphia Activities Fund, PhillyCarShare, the Samuel S. Fels Fund, the Sparkplug Foundation, SCI-West, and the Spruce Hill Community Association.

You can buy a membership online or even give one as a gift: (

The Tool Library needs more of the following: table saws, weed whackers, tile saws, and cordless drills. They want to start education programs to teach about using tools and add members from new neighborhoods.

Current borrowers include James Jackson and his girlfriend, Cassie Zook, who discovered the West Philadelphia Tool Library when they purchased a house in Center City.

"Since we were buying a fixer-upper, we figured being members of the library would come in handy," said Jackson, who is skilled at tinkering, having learned from his grandfather, a motor pool mechanic in the Army.

"I'm a freelance photographer, so my time is more flexible and being handy around the house is easier."

Jackson regularly borrowed the library's floor nailer, hammer drill, and circular saw to finish his upstairs home office and to install a kitchen exhaust fan. The previous owner had been foreclosed upon and removed all the interior doors, fixtures, toilets and sinks, even the wiring.

"We had to rebuild everything from scratch," Jackson said. After a general contractor spent most of their renovation funds and left the job half-finished, Jackson and Zook installed their own drywall.

"For that project, we were going to borrow a drywall lift. The tool library didn't have one at the time. So we bought one used for $300 and donated it."

They've since borrowed it back a few times.

Had they been forced to buy all the tools necessary for their fixer-upper, "it would have cost us thousands of dollars. An air compressor and floor nailer alone cost $2,000. A drywall lift costs $300 to $500, depending on whether it's used or new. And we've borrowed all of those," Jackson said.

Even now that they are almost finished, Jackson and Zook are keeping their Tool Library memberships.

"I'm still borrowing for construction at a theater where I work, the Walking Fish Theater. I'm at the library all the time," Jackson said.

J. Baylor Harton and her fiance, Matt Goldfine, are "frequent fliers" at the library, using borrowed tools to build a chuppah for their forthcoming wedding. They're actively supporting the crowdfunding efforts. "We'll be donating and spreading the word via social media," said Harton.



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