What You Can Borrow At The Chicago Tool Library | WBEZ
Skip to main content


5 Unexpected Items You Can Borrow At Chicago's New Tool Library

If you've ever needed a wheelbarrow, power washer or slow cooker — but didn’t want to cough up the cash — a unique new private “library” is here to help.

The volunteer-run Chicago Tool Library officially opened Aug. 11 at 1048 W 37th St. in Bridgeport. It will host a kick-off party this Friday at the Inside Town event space in Little Village.

Here’s how it works. Members of The Chicago Tool Library can borrow big and small tools on a pay what you can basis. The recommendation for the yearly membership fee is $10 for every $10,000 an individual makes in annual income.

"You can pay $30 for a whole year and you can have all the tools you can fit in a 1,000 square foot room," said co-founder Tessa Vierk. "And then you don't have to go to the store, you don't have to take care of the tools, and we really do have a broad range of tools."

For those who don’t return an item on time, late fees start at $1 per day and increase depending on the demand and value of the borrowed tool.

What makes this program unique is that it’s the first place in Chicago where any anybody can borrow tools and household goods. Organizations like the Chicago Community Toolbank and Neighborspace have for years been running similar libraries open to non-profits or community gardens — but not individuals.

In cities like Ann Arbor, MI., Skokie, IL. and Sacramento, CA., tool libraries are integrated into the public library system. Sacramento's "Library of Things" opened in 2015 and now boasts 125 items across two branches.

The Chicago Tool Library currently has about 300 items and is made up mostly of donations, Vierk said. The program hopes to expand it’s selection based on member feedback.

screwdrivers in boxes
Paula Friedrich/WBEZ

And it's not just screwdrivers and saws. Here are five other things you can borrow at the Bridgeport-based library that you might not have expected.

A sewing machine

sewing machine chicago tool library
Paula Friedrich/WBEZ

A pasta maker

pasta maker
Paula Friedrich/WBEZ

A tracer projector

tracer chicago tool library

Ratchet straps and tie downs

ratchet straps and tie downs
Paula Friedrich/WBEZ

A film camera

film camera chicago tool library
Paula Friedrich/WBEZ

Paula Friedrich is WBEZ's interactive producer. You can follow her on Twitter at @pauliebe.

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.