Toolin' around
From drills to drain snakes, Durango Tool Library's got your next DIY covered

Toolin' around

Kathleen Gollner and Tenny Webster opened Durango Tool Library last year, which rents out tools for a small monthly fee for home projects./ Photo by Jennaye Derge

Jennaye Derge - 05/12/2022

As a self-proclaimed bookworm, I’ve always viewed libraries as four-walled havens of literature. But when it comes to the new Durango Tool Library, it’s not so bookended, if you will.

Kathleen Gollner and Tenny Webster, owners of the Durango Tool Library, assure me that libraries don’t always have to be about books. They can house things like data and objects. And Durango’s newest library, located in Bodo Park, concerns itself with the latter. As the name implies, the library is made up of tools that can be checked out, used for home projects, then returned all for a small monthly fee.

In fact, this model of renting infrequently used items is such a phenomenon that it even has a name: library of things. It might sound like some Harry Potter tomfoolery or a term so literal you want to roll your eyes, but Kathleen and Tenny attest to its authenticity. Apparently, these libraries of things are pretty popular in other places, including Vancouver, B.C. where Kathleen and Tenny met in grad school. 

Both have degrees in library science from the University of British Columbia. However, they came out of grad school – having frequented their own local tool library – wanting to explore the world of renting out objects.

“We often needed tools to build shelves, repair our bikes and any number of things,” Kathleen said. “We had neither the money, the space nor the desire to accumulate and deal with tools.”  

This is probably one of the more relatable statements for anyone living in a tiny studio or apartment, or dealing with a cluttered shed and garage. Borrowing something in a world where we already own so much is significantly less committal, less maddening and way cheaper than a $200 tool you’ll only use once in a while.

Since its opening last year, the Durango Tool Library knew it wanted to have a positive impact on the community and has operated as a public-benefit corporation, meaning they operate in the best interest of the public instead of stakeholders. The goal of a public-benefit corporation is usually a little more philanthropic, and it runs much like a nonprofit. It requires a yearly audit and, much like a nonprofit, has a triple bottom line: to benefit the community, the environment and people involved in the business. Kathleen and Tenny still want to make money so they can feed their dog, so they found the public-benefit corporation to be the best route. 

“(A public-benefit corporation) is a very transparent way of having a corporation that is held accountable to the public, and showing that we do what we say we’ve set out to do, and we’re not here just for ourselves just to make profit,” Tenny said. 

Also similar to many other nonprofits are Durango Tool Library’s membership fees. It currently offers monthly and yearly membership options, $25 or $220 respectively with an initial $10 startup fee. Folks can rent up to eight tools at a time for one week, giving them enough time to work on their projects without having to rush. Or, as Tenny says, giving them enough time to procrastinate as long as possible.

Procrastination is generally what this town does best, so it’s clear Kathleen and Tenny are already understanding of that. And since opening the Durango Tool Library, that’s been their main goal. 

“It’s important to us that our collection is a reflection of the community that we serve, so we really want to make an effort to lend the tools that people actually want to use,” Kathleen said.

As of now, they have 169 tools or tool sets to choose from, and want to someday have thousands that will be acquired based on community suggestion. So far, their most popular rented tool is the circular saw, but the Durango Tool Library has more than just saws, hammers and drills. Lining the walls and filling shelves are things you might not think of, such as kitchen items like cake pans, a cake turntable, waffle maker and a food dehydrator. There are also outdoor-related tools such as bicycle repair and brake bleed kits, a bike stand, and ski and snowboard tools to help wax and repair your boards. 

“When people think ‘tool library,’ they think carpentry, woodworking tools and wrenches; they don’t necessarily think about bike repair tools or kitchen tools,” Kathleen said. 

The library started with a few of Kathleen and Tenny’s own tools – the popular circular saw, a sewing machine, and a food dehydrator to name a few – and grew by guesstimating what the Durango community could benefit from and asking the community for recommendations. Now, the library is growing, and so is the list of requests, and at the top of the list? A drain snake. 

“Who wants to buy a drain snake? You need it like once every year. Next time you want to check it out, it will be there for you. You don’t have to spend another $45-$50 on it, and you can get your gross drain cleaned,” Tenny said.

These are the types of things that Tenny and Kathleen get excited about, and meeting them, you learn that they are both wide-eyed tinkerers. They want to help other people with the most benign or complicated projects. That is why one of their current and biggest goals is to hold more classes and workshops and provide more educational material to their members (and nonmembers, but you get a better deal if you’re a member). 

“Sometimes all the YouTube videos in the world are not enough to understand how to do it,” Kathleen said. 

The duo also is pretty passionate about making sure people feel comfortable using the tool. They also know that if a tool is used properly, it can really do wonders to make your life better and safer. Therefore, they plan to provide information on every single tool in an online catalog. “So if you’ve never used one of the tools, you’d be able to get a pretty good idea of using it without hurting yourself,” Tenny said. 

The Durango Tool Library folks are creating more information and workshops as we speak, including a bicycle repair and maintenance series through this spring and summer, with plans for more hands-on classes as well. They also envision one day creating more space to offer in-house work areas and of course, to have more space for more tools … and maybe even a couple books here and there.

Have tools to donate? The Durango Tool Library is always accepting tools. You can drop them off at their Bodo location or contact them via phone or internet first. For more info, go to: