Berkeley's Tool Lending Library (TLL) was established in 1979 with $30,000 from a federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). Originally housed in a portable trailer, the project began with about 500 tools and one full-time employee. The aim of the project was to provide access to tools and information to people who lived in south and west Berkeley. The Library held focus groups to determine what services, tools and support materials the community wanted. The TLL was among the first tool lending libraries in the country and has served as a model for similar lending libraries around the world.
Under the terms of the CDBG grant, the service was free to residents of low and moderate income in south and west Berkeley neighborhoods. Other Berkeley residents paid $.50 to $3.00 per tool. In 1988, Berkeley voters passed a property-based library tax, which allows for the Tool Lending Library's inclusion in the Library's operating budget. The service is now free to all Berkeley residents and property owners age 18 and over.
In 2012, a combination of trailers and few garden sheds held 3500+ tools. As part of the Measure FF funded branch renovation project, the South Branch library was closed and the Tool Library moved to a temporary location. Since the re-opening of the reconstructed Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch in 2013, TLL occupies a larger space built to house, repair and store tools, and to better accommodate TLL staff and patrons. In 2019, the Library expanded TLL hours and it is now open 6 days a week offering frequent workshops on such topics as gardening, home maintenance and other DIY projects.Weed eaters, extension cords, hedge trimmers, demolition hammers and electric plumbing snakes are among the most requested items. The Library does not carry gas-powered or powder-actuated tools.
Tools may be borrowed for 3 or 7 days, depending on the item. Fines for overdue tools range from $1 to $10.00 per day, based on cost and demand.