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Got the home improvement itch? Here’s how a Lexington program can save you money

Last spring, a new tool library opened in Lexington as a “game changer” for residents looking to make essential repairs or even just tackle a fun home improvement project affordably.

Since then, the Lexington Tool Library has helped make home and community improvement projects possible. That includes the revitalization of a community garden last May, when art students built a memorial for gun violence victims at Douglas Park.

Those types of projects are emblematic of the mutual aid values the tool library strives to live up to, according to volunteer Casey Lyons.

Lyons describes mutual aid as a concept that’s distinct from the top-down, presumptive and one-size-fits-all approach charities often take. Human beings are social, communal creatures, Lyons believes, adding that outcomes are often better when there’s a give and take. The tool library aims to embody those values, Lyons said.

“We enjoy things more when we do them in community,” they said.

Can I use the Lexington tool library?

The concept works similarly to a public library, with some key exceptions.

The library asks members to “pay what you can” for access to its tools. In practice, that takes the form of a suggested, recurring payment or $5, $10 or $25, for example. That said, one of the Lexington Tool Library’s core values is access “regardless of ability to pay.”

“It’s all the way down to zero if somebody can’t afford anything at all,” Lyons said.

The Lexington Tool Library also does not charge late fees. Instead, it asks borrowers to provide contact information for two people who can help remind the borrower to return the tools.

“We thought that was more accessible than charging late fees,” Lyons said. “We don’t want to impact people disproportionately.”

Currently, the library has 23 active members, Lyons said.

Got the home improvement itch? Here’s how a Lexington program can save you moneyGot the home improvement itch? Here’s how a Lexington program can save you money

The Lexington Tool Library allows people to borrow tools for a small membership fee. The library opened at the Black and Williams Center on Georgetown Road on May 10, 2023. Beth Musgrave/[email protected]

What kinds of tools are available?

Lexington Tool Library offers a wide selection of conventional household tools, including corded drills, a circular saw, a furniture dolly, snow shovel, leaf blower and hedge trimmer, to name a few.

However, Lyons said the library takes a broad view of what is considered equipment. It has traditional woodworking and outdoor tools, but it also offers appliances such as sewing machines, crockpots, air fryers, fans and heaters.

“We have a very broad conception of what we consider tools,” Lyons said.

According to Lyons, garden tools are among the most popular to borrow from the library.

“The thing that has been checked out the most is a 24-inch electric hedge trimmer,” Lyons said, adding it’s been checked out 11 times. Other frequently requested tools include manual hedge clippers and a chainsaw. During the warmer months, it’s common for at least three people a week to stop by looking for equipment for home improvement projects.

New tools have also been added to the library’s inventory since its launch, including air compressors and sewing machines.

A screen capture of the Lexington Tool Library’s website depicting what tools are available to borrow.A screen capture of the Lexington Tool Library’s website depicting what tools are available to borrow.

A screen capture of the Lexington Tool Library’s website depicting what tools are available to borrow.

How can I join, volunteer or donate?

If you want to join, you can sign up on the Lexington Tool Library’s website.

Because the library is run by volunteers, it’s open one day a week — Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. It’s located at the Black and Williams Center at 498 Georgetown St. in room 104.

The library accepts donations of tools or money. It had so much support on the former, the library has had to pause donations of tools that aren’t on its wish list.

You can also volunteer your time and knowledge by offering to help repair and clean tools, check equipment in and out or just help spread the word about the library and what it offers.

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