How does the Tool Library Work?
It's simple. We pool and share resources with eachother to reduce our environmental footprint and save money that can then be re-invested in our homes, businesses and neighborhoods. The core of our programming is a large inventory of tools that members can use for all their Home-Improvement, DIY, Lawn &Garden and Pinterest Projects. In order to participate one must:
- Join and pay a modest annual membership fee (scholarships are available as needed)
- Review and agree to our tool use/safety protocol
- Sign a liability waiver
Yep. It's that simple.
As a member, you can check-out tools or use our community makerspace on-site.
The Nuts and Bolts
The Minnesota Tool Library is incorporated with the State of Minnesota and is a tax-exempt, member-based, 501c3 non-profit organization with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). All our official paperwork and your tax receipts will read "Northeast MPLS Tool Library" because that was our first branch and thus our first name - but no worries, we're one and the same. We currently have two branches that are located in NorthEast Minneapolis and the Como North-End Neighborhood in St. Paul. We operate as one entity - you can use either or both branches as a member, but must return tools to the branch they were checked-out from. (We don't have inter-library loan.)
9-5 isn't generally our jive. Please note that MTL is not open/operated during standard business hours. Instead, we focus on providing access evenings and weekends when most people are in project mode. As part-timers, you won't find us waiting by the phones. Please email us according to our contact list and know it will likely take a few days to get a response.
We’re not a retail or rental service... we’re a community resource and a volunteer-driven member co-op that relies on your participation. We have a Board of Directors that oversees the tool library’s finances, helps plan for our future, and who help to chair each of our volunteer leadership commitees. These commitees are the backbone of our organization - they serve as our administrative powerhouse and coordinate pretty much every aspect of MTL. We also have a handful of part-time staff: Our Executive Director works with our Board, Committees, and Branch Staff to manage MTL's day-day operations. Our Branch Managers staff the library during open hours, coordinate branch volunteers, provide tool/project advice, and much more. Volunteers are a vital part of this organization. As much as we benefit from the time, effort and dedication of our volunteers, we are equally hopeful that they find a similar benefit in the skills they learn, the experiences they share and the community connections they make.
Seed money to initiate the tool library was granted by the Windom Park Citizen in Action (WPCiA) using its Neighborhood Revitalization Program. Additional funding from the Carolyn Foundation, Knight Foundation, and MN Pollution Control Agency (amongst others); and generous support from our members, donors, and friends; has allowed our organization to grow. We are grateful to all those who have, and continue to support our mission.
How long does a membership last?
All our membership options are annual. They last one calendar year from the date they are activated, and we offer Standard and Premium members the option to renew automatically. We DO NOT offer partial or short-term memberships; it's our goal to be available to you for the projects you have planned and those that pop-up!
How do I redeem a Gift Certificate?
E-Certificates can be redeemed for classes or merchandise directly through our registration/shop software. To redeem towards membership, once you've created your online account, just email your certificate details to either branch or our membership committee and we'll post the redemption to your member account.
How do I upgrade or change my membership level?
At this time our lending software doesn't allow you to change your membership type directly, however our membership commitee is happy to help! Just email email@example.com and let us know which level you'd like to swap to. If you're within a few months of your renewal window we'll process the change for the remainder of your current term and you'll be all set to renew at your leisure. If you're more than 3 months from your renewal, you can elect to upgrade for your remaining term or add another full year to your membership.
How long can I borrow a tool?
The standard loan period is one week, and tools may be self-renewed up to three times, as long as there is no conflicting reservation/request for use by another member.
Can I renew a tool online?
Yes Please! Don't haul it back and forth to the library just to renew. Log in to your account, select "Loans" from your account menu, click the "renew" button next to the tools you want to renew, then click "complete transaction" at the bottom of the screen. If it doesn't let you renew automatically it likely means another member has it on reserve or you have outstanding fees on your account. If you need help, please email your branch.
Can I see if you own a certain tool?
Yes! Click the "Inventory" link at the top of our website and enter your keywords in the search field. If you don't see what you're looking for you may want to look at both branches or use broader search criteria - with over 5,000 items it's liklely we have what you need. If you've made a cursory search and still can't find what you're looking for - just email us and we'll be happy to give it another set of eyes.
If there’s a tool I need that isn’t in the tool inventory, can I request it to be added?
Absolutely! We aim to be responsive to our users needs. We will have to review our wishlist and financial capacity, but if multiple members are seeking the same item, there’s a good chance we’ll find a way to add it to our inventory. If there's something you want to see, or see more of at the library, please let our programming committee know!
Can I tell if a tool is available right now?
Yes! Click the tool to view it's availability. Greyed out dates will reflect closed days and any reservation buffers. If it says "due __/__/__," the tool is checked out and due back on that day. You can also see future reservations.
Can I reserve a tool?
Yes. If there is a tool that's crucial to your project or in high-demand it's a great idea to reserve it. Make sure you are logged in to your account, find the tool in our inventory, click the "Reserve" button, and follow the instructions on-screen. If you have reserved a tool that has a same-day return by the previous user, please call ahead to confirm its return before coming to pick the reservation. Please understand that occasionally we are unable to provide the reserved tool because the previous user has yet to return it, or it is in need of repair. In this situation, we will do our best to provide an alternate solution for your project needs. To ease our check-out process, please only make reservations for specialty or high demand tools, unless you really have a strong preference. It's much easier to just grab one of our many (~37) circular saws when you're in the shop, without us having to match inventory #'s to the particular model on your reservation. * Be sure to click your cart and check-out!
What happens if I return a tool late?
We've all been there. We provide a day of grace, but after that tools returned after their due date will incur a late fee, which is generally set at $1/day. Fees in excess of the Fair Market Value of an item will be forgiven up to that threshold, and we'll waive or discount some of those fees if you let us know via email you can't make it in. The key is communication. Late fees exceeding $5 require a good-faith payment before additional loans may be made on the account.
When and where can I return a tool?
Tools must be returned to the branch you checked them out from, during standard open hours. They must be received on or before their due date and can be returned by anyone - so feel free to ask your friend to be your tool sherpa if you're headed out of town!
Do I need to clean a tool before returning it?
We're not afraid of a little sawdust, but tools should be returned tidy. Please take the time to wipe, blow, vacuum, or rinse off any debris from your project(s). Dust Collectors and Shop Vacs should be emptied, and concrete/mudding tools should be properly cleaned and dryed.
What happens if a tool is damaged, dirty or broken?
We understand that sometimes things happen and our tools can get quite the workout; however tools should be returned in the same condition that they were checked-out. If an item is returned in unrepairable condition through obvious neglect or improper usage, you will be asked to pay the full replacement value of the tool. If damaged through what appears to be the normal use of the tool, a determination for repair/replacement options will be made - and you'll be asked to contribute a portion of that cost. If items are returned dirty or worn beyond a reasonable expectation, a small fee may be assessed.
Are there instructions on how to use the tools available?
If you are unsure how to use a particular tool, please ask our Librarian, Branch Manager or Shop Mentor for a quick tutorial. Some tools will require a brief safety or set-up tutorial and/or a special waiver (like chainsaws), but most just include general safety reminders. Some of our tools come with hard-copy manuals, but most all have one available online if you need it. We can also usually recommend some banner YouTube videos, and highly encourage members to take advantage of our classes!
Can a small business owner use tools from the tool library?
Yes Please! We hope to afford small business owners the ability to grow their business, take on more clients and perhaps even create more jobs for the community. That said, we will hold business owners to the same standard of proper tool usage and wear/tear as individuals checking out tools for personal use. (ie – tools should not be returned with excessive wear, no usage by individuals not listed on the account, etc.)
How can I support the Tool Library?
Like any non-profit we rely on monetary donations to bolster our budget and provide our services. You can help by making an unsolicited gift through our donation link (bonus points if you set up a recurring donation), hosting a fundraiser on Facebook, participating in our annual fundraising events, and/or contributing through workplace giving, donor-advised funds, or planned giving.
The other simple way to financially support the Minnesota Tool Library is to join at the Standard membership level or above if you're able.
What types of in-kind donations/tools do you accept?
We are always grateful for services and items that help us to further our mission, and keep our expenses low while adding value for our members. We love to reclaim and reuse items - though we'd love to accept everything that comes our way, we need to be selective and balance member needs, current inventory and space.
Our basic acceptance criteria are:
- Items are in working order and including all necessary parts/accessories.
- Battery-operated tools should include both a battery and charger, and need to hold a charge. No Nicad Batteries Please.
- Power tools are generally of a modern vintage (for safety and maintenance reasons).
- Items are (reasonably) clean.
- Hand, Battery-Operated, and Corded Electric tools are Preferred. No Gas-Powered Items unless pre-approved.
- No loose hardware or mystery boxes of parts/consumables.
We are currently at capacity for in-kind tool donations thanks to your recent generosity and spring cleaning! If you can, please hold off on bringing in any new in-kind donations until June '23, so we can finish processing the pile of inventory. THANK YOU!
Naturally, there are some exceptions to the list above, as high-quality tools needing a simple repair or heritage/heirloom tools can be valuable to our membership. When in doubt, or if you plan on donating a number of items, please email our programming committee. It helps us immensely to have an idea of age, brand, and quality of tools before they're on our doorstep and to ensure we have the capacity to process your donation. Usually, the simplest thing is to take a video or snap several photos of the items you wish to donate (or the entire tool collection). Please include brands, manufacturers identification labels, model #'s and any condition notes when possible which can help our volunteers process your gift.
* Please note we cannot accept radial arm saws. However, a partner organization uses them for a "back to work" program for veterans. Contact Bud at 612-750-2976.
What specific tools/items do you need most right now?
We keep a running wish list of specific tools and supplies; but in general we are most interested in electric power tools (air compressors, nailers, drills, pressure washers, tillers, etc) and professional grade equipment. We also happily accept most types of hand tools in good condition (tape measurers, wrenches, clamps, pliers, etc) and items like party tents, upolstery cleaners, crafting tools, and basic office/cleaning supplies.
Our Top 10:
- Extra Lithium Ion Batteries and Battery Chargers /Adaptors
- Air Nailers (framing, finish or brad)
- Air Compressors (must be in good condition, not needing repair)
- Hammer Drills/Heavy Duty Drills
- Pressure Washers
- Chain Saws (electric preferred)
- Small/Medium Lathes
- Clamps (all but pipe)
- Wet Tile Saws
- Mitre Saws (powered)
What is the process for dropping off donations?
Donations may be brought to our Branches during open hours or by appointment. Our address, hours, etc. are listed on our home page. If your donation is large enough, we may be able to find volunteers to help pick it up/transport. If you'll need help unloading, please let us know in advance so we can plan on having some extra hands available.
Does every donated tool end up in the Tool Library's inventory?
While we make every attempt to maintain and keep tools in service, occasionally our inventory is overloaded or an item is at the end of its lifecycle. Items may be sold to help cover operating costs, bartered for priority inventory additions, properly recycled or upcycled (if in disrepair), or donated to another nonprofit organization; therefore, please be aware that while we really appreciate (and survive on) donations, your specific tool may not be kept in our inventory indefinitely.
Can I donate lumber or hardware?
Our space is limited, so often we can't accept remnant lumber or hardware donations. You can always check with the local branch manager though, in case we're in need of just that item for an upcoming project or class. We encourage members to share amongst eachother by posting any loose/leftover consumables (lumber, hardware, that half gallon of mud you have left, etc.) on our Facebook Member Share group. Otherwise, we suggest donating it to the Habitat ReUse store.
What is the Open Shop?
Each of our branches has a shop/makerspace where our large and specialty equiptment lives, and where members can use items (from both the shop and lending inventory) to work on their projects. Think of it like your garage - except we're comfy year-round and you get to build in community alongside other MTL members. Our shop is primarily set-up as a classic woodshop, though we're adding more makerspace components as we grow. It's also the space where we host MTL's classes and hands-on workshops. Our volunteer Shop Mentors are usually on-site as well to help if you have questions, need advice, or just need an extra set of hands.
Is there a required class/training I need to take before using the shop?
No! Unlike some other makerspaces we do not have any required training. We do ask that you leverage our staff or shop mentors for support (especially if you're not familiar with a particualr tool) and we highly recommend taking an MTL Basics class (which we offer monthly) to become aquainted with our tools and workspace.
Do I need to reserve space/time to use the shop?
Nope. Our shops are available to all members on a drop-in basis during open hours. No reservation is required, but just as you would check-in/out loans at the front desk, we ask that you log your shop use with the branch staff and help us track specific tool usage.
How long can I work in the shop?
Our open hours are generally 3-4 hour blocks of time. If you're working on a large project, be sure to portion it out into smaller tasks that can be completed in stages over various open hours. Kindergarten rules apply - please take turns and share equipment. Also, don't forget to factor in your clean-up time at the end of any shift!
*Standard and Premium Members may rent the shop for private use outside of open hours on a limited basis. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
If I’m working on a project in the Shop, can I keep it there until I finish?
Currently, our space is very limited for storage, so we ask members to bring their projects back/forth. Sometimes, we may be able to make special arrangements for small projects, or larger projects over consecutive open days, on a case-by case basis.
What if I hurt myself in the Shop?
Prevention is always the best medicine. Please be aware of yourself and your surroundings in the shop, and ALWAYS follow proper safety protocol. If you do get hurt, we have basic First Aid onsite and our staff is always on hand to help when needed. If you see unsafe behavior, or experience an incident (no matter how minor), please inform the staff immediately.
I have a specific tool/skill I'd like to learn...
We always want to know what others would like to learn! Our Shop Mentors or Branch Managers can help you 1-1 on-site (a heads-up via email is always appreciated) as available, and we may develop or schedule a class too if it's something that would empower others in our community.
Guest Pass FAQ's
What Is A Guest Pass?
Guest Passes are certificates that provide limited access to the MN Tool Library for non-members. They can be used to borrow tools, get a discount on class registration, or use the shop.
How Do I Get A Guest Pass?
Standard and Premium Members receive guest passes annually to share with friends and family. MTL also uses them for outreach - so visit our booth at community events and/or enter our prize drawings for your chance to win. * From time to time, MTL Instructors may also provide guest passes to students so that they can return to finish a class project.
How Do I Redeem My Guest Pass?
It’s easy to use the Guest Pass. Simply fill out the back of the card. All information is required. Bring your pass to either MTL Branch during open hours to check out tools or to use the workshop. You will be entered into our system and will be required to sign a liability waiver. If you are using the pass to register a family/friend or yourself for a class, when you purchase a non-member ticket online, enter the promo code “”MTLGUEST20” Please note: You must submit the card when you sign-in at the class, or you’ll be charged the difference in fee.
Can I Check Out Any Tool I Want Using My Guest Pass?
Most all of our tools will be available to you for check out, though member reservations and usage will take precedence. While not an exhaustive list, due to popularity among our membership, it is unlikely that the following items will be available: Rototiller, Planer, Wet Tile Saw, Pressure Washers, Floor Sander, and many Air Compressors/Pneumatic Tools. The Branch Managers will have final say as to which items are available to you, and may request a usage fee or security deposit for high value items.
Does My Member have to come with me to redeem my pass?
While we hope our members will consider sharing MTL with their guests more socially - working on a project together in the shop, learning a new skill in one of our classes, or providing some person power on that home improvement project; the Member DOES NOT have to be present for redemption.
Does My Guest Pass Have An Expiration Date?
No. guest passes have no expiration date. However, you may only use one guest pass, per person, at a time. For instance, you can not use 2 guest passes to get a larger discount on a class, to check out more than 5 tools, or to “renew” tools for more than one week.
AM I responsible for any Fees/Repair/Etc?
Just like any of our Members, anyone using a guest pass will be responsible for any damages, lost/stolen tools, late fees,etc. Members will not be held responsible for the actions of their guests.