Membership Changes Coming

25.08.22 04:57 PM Comment(s) By Tim Willison

No tricks, No tiers, just Tools

Back in November of 2020 I wrote about the persistent problems with the membership options at the Toronto Tool Library, which have been around since 2018. Today I want to announce changes that are finally coming that will improve everyone's borrowing experience.

The tier membership system is going away, to be replaced by a single simplified membership with the same price and conditions for everyone. You can jump further down to see the details, but I encourage you to consider a quick comparison - borrowing vs. renting.


Take a look at a popular item – the SDS Hammer drill, used for all kinds of chipping and drilling into concrete.

Toronto Tool Library

$1.50 per half-day ($10 for the 3 day borrow)

$30 per week ($10 borrowing + $20 late fees for 4 days)

Home Depot

$32 per half-day

$184 per week.

That isn’t a small difference – that is $150 saved PER WEEK. The cost for this basic member with this one tool is 84% less than the cost at the big-box store.

But the story isn’t over.

In addition to getting the tool, at the TTL you’ll also get all the other things you need – goggles to protect your eyes, a variety of bits, pads for your knees, a masonry chisel and mallet. These are all things you won’t find at the big-box because you’re expected to walk through the attached store and purchase them. For the items mentioned, that could easily add up :

  • Goggles - $10

  • Bits - $40

  • Knee pads - $30

  • Stone chisel - $24

  • Mallet - $20

So now your cost for the week with the big-box is up over $300, but the most you’ll pay at TTL is $30.

WOW! You paid just 10% of the big-box cost! 90% savings!

Sounds amazing right? Sounds too good to be true?

That’s because it actually is too good to be true

That amazing deal you’re getting does you no good whatsoever if the tool breaks down while you are using it.

So let’s not let that happen.

The Lending Reality

Tools wear out, and eventually they need to be replaced and properly disposed of for recycling. The truth is that brands that care about the life-cycle of tools need to charge more. Responsible brands provide longer lasting tools, and more importantly parts and servicing for those tools.

Think about your last shopping trip.

When you make your way down the aisles of the big-box store, you’ll constantly be faced with the decision of price vs. quality in your purchases. Take the popular air-nailer as an example. The DeWalt will set you back $420, whereas the Ryobi can be had for just $200. That is a huge difference! Logically, there has to be a reason for this difference, and that reason is simple: Ryobi has no parts or servicing whatsoever, and is made with cheaper materials. I know this, because we’ve gone through six of them at the Tool Library, and there is nowhere to get them fixed.

For the individual who just needs to pop some brad nails into baseboard, the Ryobi is a no-brainer. It will last long enough for a few uses. It’ll do the job.

But it makes even more sense to NOT buy the tool, when you could borrow it at a fraction of the cost.

Faced with the options to buy or borrow, the main consideration should be that the tool function well for you.

For the lending community to work, and for all of us to enjoy the benefits of sharing, the quality of the equipment has to be outstanding. The tools need to hold up. They need to be regularly serviced and retired responsibly at the end of a productive life.

Our record in this regard at the TTL has been….a best-efforts affair. But it is getting better.

The changes being introduced to our membership terms have been in planning over four years. Their purpose is to get us to the point of being that dependable partner you can count on when you need us.

So let’s look at the ways the changes in membership help us all get there together.

1. 14-day loans are ending

This is the most important step. Two week loans place an unsustainable burden on a lending library, virtually ensuring you won’t be able to get a crucial item when you need it.

The whole purpose of a lending library, and the main way it differs from a rental business, is that it relies on community members getting down to the job at hand and returning the tool as quickly as possible so another member can use it. 14-day loans kill this. Nothing in the history of the TTL has hampered sharing more than these unrealistic loan duration terms.

2. Reasonable maintenance fees

Forget about borrowing fees – we have never charged anyone to borrow tools. Our fees go directly to maintenance. But having a tier with no service fees at all has meant that the revenue simply is not sufficient to care for the tools. Less than 6% of earnings at TTL come from service fees, not nearly enough to operate well.

It is very simple – having no maintenance fees means having no maintenance. We aren’t going to do that to you.

The end result of this change is that there will be one simple, fairly priced membership for everyone.

No tiers, no tricks, just tools.

  • $90 membership per year (goes to rent/utilities)

  • 7-day borrowing for everything – no exceptions

  • Reasonable maintenance fees, clearly presented

With this simplified structure, we are confident that we will be able to generate what we need to keep the Toronto Tool Library going indefinitely.

And that’s good for everyone.

Thank you all for your continued support of sharing.

Tim Willison

Share -