Photo: A shelf of the tool library’s available power tools, courtesy of Dan Malakoff.

Library card holders can borrow over 600 hand and power tools from the collection.

By Dan Malakoff

Once a tool library opened in Millvale last year, it didn’t take long for Bill Halstrick of Troy Hill to sign up.

“I had heard about tool libraries in other cities and was really excited for Pittsburgh to have one,” he said. “The tool library is a great resource, especially for someone living in the city, working with limited space. I can check out tools with my library card that I may only need occasionally and would be expensive to buy.”

In addition to lending out power tools, the Tool Library offers educational workshops, like how to build duck nesting boxes. Troy Hill resident Bill Halstrick poses with a test run box.

The goal of the tool library is to help people to maintain and improve their homes and their communities by equipping them with the necessary tools. Members have used the library’s ladders to clean their gutters, pressure washers to clean their siding, and lawn mowers to cut their grass.

Formally known as the Maria Mongelluzzo Tool Library, it’s a project of the Millvale Community Library and has an inventory of over 600 hand and power tools for building, home maintenance, gardening, plumbing, cars, and bikes. The list of tools is long and includes power saws, drills and bits, wheelbarrows, car jacks, a dolly, drain snakes, shovels, pole pruners, and a carpet shampooer. Close to 15% of the Tool Library’s members live in Northside neighborhoods.

“Lots of people can’t afford tools,” says Ian Greynolds, an intern at the Tool Library who lives in Perry Hilltop. “It’s awesome that they can just come to the library and borrow what they need for free. And then there are the tools you buy and only use once. Why buy them when you can borrow them?”

Craftspeople, tradespeople, and laborers earning income through–or trying to start careers in–landscaping, carpentry, painting, or other activities, can also borrow tools. One of the reasons The Pittsburgh Foundation awarded the Tool Library with a $10,000 grant earlier this year is because it provides a resource for a wide range of people.

“It’s about building community,” said Nora Peters, interim director of the Millvale Community Library. “The Tool Library, in some ways, it’s neighbors helping neighbors. It’s good for individuals, good for the environment, and ultimately, it’s good for the community.”

The Tool Library also offers educational workshops that teach useful skills to community members. Participants can learn to build duck nesting boxes for Latodami Nature Center in North Park, how to use power tools in constructing a free little library, or get a lesson in sharpening tools, blades, and knives.

Read more about the Tool Library, see a complete inventory of tools available for loan, and find information about signing up at the Millvale Community Library’s website at or by calling 412-822-7081. The library is located at 213 Grant Ave, Millvale, PA, 15209.

Dan Malakoff is the Tool Library Manager.

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