Nicholas Letts brought the sharing economy to Asheville with tool library

TOOLING AROUND: At an Oct. 21 community sharpening event at the Asheville Tool Library, participants learned to sharpen blades on implements ranging from kitchen knives to chainsaws. The tool library will celebrate its second anniversary this month. Photo by Travis Smith

Back in 2007 Nicholas Letts was living in Missoula, Mont., working for a small urban demonstration project that had a tool library on-site. “A tool library is exactly how you imagine a book library, but for tools,” explains Letts, who recognized how much value the Missoula library held for its community and vowed to bring the idea back to Asheville.

Letts eventually connected with two other reuse enthusiasts and opened the Asheville Tool Library in 2016. Today, people come from all over Western North Carolina to borrow tools. “We have everything from basic hand tools like hammers and paint scrapers to cordless drills and table saws for carpentry projects. We also have gardening tools. Our inventory is growing consistently,” says Letts.

The community has donated 95 percent of the tools at the tool library, and the library operates on a sliding-scale membership basis. The library also offers free and low-cost memberships to people who can’t contribute at the time. “It is accessible to everyone,” says Letts.

The way Letts sees it, the tool library reduces the environmental footprint of those who use it. “We see the tool library as an alternative to the current economic structure that we live in, which is based in consumption,” says Letts. “People have garages and closets full of tools that they went out and purchased because they needed it one time. When we share, we reduce our impact.”

But another major benefit of the tool library is that because tools are available to everyone, it levels the economic playing field. “We hope that the tool library creates more economic equality for people,” says Letts. “We want to be able to work with each other outside the normal paradigm of purchasing things when you need them.”

Editor’s note: As part of our monthlong celebration of sustainable ways of living and working in our local community, Xpress is highlighting some of those who are taking action on a variety of creative and inspiring initiatives.



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About Kim Dinan
Kim Dinan is a freelance writer and author of The Yellow Envelope. She lives in WNC with her husband and daughter. Follow me @kimdinan

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One thought on “Nicholas Letts brought the sharing economy to Asheville with tool library

  1. James L. Smith

    I want all my kitchen knives razor sharp. So I’ll be seeking out this place of high esteem very soon. A friend demonstrated a Russian knife sharpener stand he paid $600 for. I drooled when I tried it out. It holds the blade at the proper angle and has three different stones. And yes, after a few minutes you have a blade which is razor sharp which you can’t attain free-handed.

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