Portland Embraces the Free Sharing Economy

Companies such as Lyft, Airbnb, and TaskRabbit have revolutionized the service economy by connecting individuals to one another to share resources that may have otherwise been underutilized and thus undervalued. Arun Sundararajan, a marketing professor at NYU and author of the 2016 book “The Sharing Economy”, describes this new economic model as “crowd-based capitalism.”  In this model, economic activity occurs peer-to-peer, as opposed to being mediated by corporate systems.  Crowd-based capitalism allows an individual or community to optimize its resources by renting them out to others when they are not in use.  In Portland, the sharing-economy now includes free resources. That’s right, free!  All across Portland, local groups are leveraging the principles of the sharing economy to provide people with anything from power tools to board games and beyond.

 Photo courtesy of Northeast Portland Tool Library

Photo courtesy of Northeast Portland Tool Library

Local resources and Lending Libraries

The ReBuilding Center in Portland has also embraced the free sharing economy through events it hosts like Fix-It-Fairs where folks can come and get their small appliances, bikes, garments and other items fixed for free. They also lists some of Portland's local “Lending Libraries” on their website

Lending Libraries are small community hubs across Portland that have a variety of tools and project materials available for rent, free of charge.  Think construction, auto repair, home improvement, and gardening.  Some Lending Libraries are standalone buildings, while others are located inside churches or community centers. Most of them rent to individuals, while some, such as Portland Community Tool Bank, specialize in renting to not-for-profit organizations.  Lending Libraries are predominately run by volunteers and sustained through individual and corporate donations as well as grants. 

Hillsboro Public Library's "Library of Things"

Libraries have embraced the free sharing economy for centuries, and it is only fitting that a local library would become a hub for free sharing of all sorts of goods.  The “Library of Things” is a project run by the Hillsboro Public Library that offers an eclectic array of items for rent to anyone with a library card.  The collection began with a donation of cake pans and has since grown to include rarely used, but occasionally coveted, items such as a cotton candy machine or telescope.  The Library of Things includes board games, musical instruments, and a variety of home and event equipment.  You can borrow from the Library of Things with a Washington County library card (which you can apply for with a Multnomah County card).  You can also contribute to the Library of Things by simply donating new or gently used items that other people could enjoy using. The collection provides the physical tools patrons need to explore new interests and learn new skills and are essentially “checking out an experience.” It’s so popular that it doesn’t even require much space for storage, because so many items are on loan at any given time.

 Photo courtesy of Portland Community Tool Bank

Photo courtesy of Portland Community Tool Bank

Sharing is Caring

By using local Lending Libraries you can embody the ReBuilding Center’s mission to build community through reuse.  By sharing tools and materials within a community we are creating sustainable and accessible resources that empower individuals and organizations to repair homes, construct community gardens, and simply get work done affordably. 

Most of us are so used to having our own everything, we don’t yet see anything peculiar about having drawers and cupboards and closets full of items that rarely see the light of day. These Lending Libraries allow patrons to practice the first “R” of conservation—reducing—by making it easy to borrow. Like the ReBuilding Center, they are community resources that help people increase their skills while lowering their environmental footprint.

Find Your Nearest Tool Library

Name a tool that you need for home repairs and gardening, and you will find it at one of the local tool libraries near your home. For example, check out the Southeast Portland Tool Library at 1137 SE 20th Avenue.  Check out their website to see an array of hand tools—just like what you would find at a retail seller like Home Depot except they are free to use!  They all appear new and/or well taken care of.

Another location farther south on the east side is the Green Lents Community Tool Library and is a great resource for those who speak Spanish.  It has an excellent website and is located at 9215 SE Ramona Street. 

In the northeast sector of the city, we find the Northeast Portland Tool Library located in the Leaven Community Center/Salt and Light Lutheran Church.  It prefers residents that live in the northeast or west of 82ndIts goal is to offer "residents of all income levels access to tools to empower them to build and maintain a sustainable, thriving community."

And, those people living in the Kenton area can go to the Old Kenton Firehouse basement at 2209 N Schofield Street where they will find the North Portland Tool Library

One of these tool library services may be just right for you. To see a list of Lending Libraries in Portland, check out the ReBuilding Center’s resource page or consult the list below! We wish you good building!

Green Lents Community Tool Library
9215 SE Ramona Street, Portland 97266

Kitchen Share
2800 SE Harrison & 5431 NE 20th Ave

North East Portland Tool Library
5431 NE 20th Ave.

North Portland Tool Library
Old Kenton Firehouse (Basement)
2209 N. Schofield St.
503-823-0209

Portland Community Tool Bank
6424 NE 59th Place

South East Portland Tool Library
2800 SE Harrison St.

Swap & Play - St Johns
7535 N Chicago St.

Swap & Play - Woodlawn
704 NE Dekum St.

Swap Positive
Multiple Locations

Yard Sharing
Multiple Locations

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