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North Portland Tool Library

If you’ve ever needed to buy an expensive tool for a home project, you know how frustrating it can be to spend large amounts of money on something you won’t need for very long. Enter tool libraries, which allow patrons to borrow tools and equipment, often free of charge. Learn more about the North Portland Tool Library, which has over 1500 tools available for its patrons.

The Problem

It’s frustrating to spend a lot of money on an expensive tool for a home project, especially when you realize that you probably won’t be using it again any time soon. How many times in your life are you going to need a post setter? Luckily for you, North Portland has an awesome tool library that also includes more frequently used tools like garden hoes and utility knives.

Some History

Tool lending libraries have been around for about 25 years. There are roughly 60 community tool libraries in the United States, and the Portland area has 5 of them, including the one in North Portland. Each tool library operates with its own set of guidelines, but most accept tool donations from the community and then lend them out for free (or at very low cost) to anyone who has an ID and signs a waiver accepting responsibility for anything that happens while using the tools.

The tool library in North Portland was founded by four volunteers in 2004. The primary goal of the tool library, according to the library’s website, is to “help build community and livability in this very diverse area of the city by providing this free resource to all residents of North Portland.” For more information on how the North Portland Tool Library was started, check out this blog post by one of its founders.

North Portland Tool Library

Image owned by and courtesy of The New Dream Blog


The North Portland Tool Library operates in the basement of the Old Kenton Firehouse. It has a volunteer board of directors as well as a volunteer staff (including someone in charge of tool maintenance). The library operates through grant funding as well as private donations. Because of generous sponsors, the library is able to operate at no cost to its patrons. The library also accepts some tool donations, but only after a thorough inspection.

The library has more than 1500 tools. A list (although not a complete one) is available here. The library suggests that you go inside and browse to become familiar with its offerings. Since the library does not place its items on hold, you may have to get there early (especially on a Saturday morning) to get the things you need.

There are a few requirements for patrons, as well. You must be a resident of North Portland (address verification is required), you must have a government-issued ID, and you must be at least 18 years old. In addition, you must fill out this form and read these rules.

North Portland Tool Library Logo

Image owned by and courtesy of Brandon Hafer


The North Portland Tool Library also offers workshops to help its users utilize tools more effectively. The workshops are free to all and are run by skilled people from the community or from partnering organizations. If you are able to help with a workshop, contact the library. Any help is welcome.


And speaking of help, if you have a couple of hours to spare, the library always needs volunteers. They do things like check tools in and out, keep the library clean, and help patrons find solutions to their DIY problems. More experienced people are always around to help, so you don’t need to worry that you’ll be left alone. Check out this page for more information.

For more information about the North Portland Tool Library, go to http://www.northportlandtoollibrary.org, call them at (503)823-0209, or stop by when they’re open (5:00 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays or 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturdays).

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