May 26, 2018

Undergrad Founds Bloomington Tool Library

Matt LaLonde

Matt LaLonde

Illinois Wesleyan University junior Matt LaLonde isn’t even going for a degree in library science—he’s an accounting major. But that hasn’t stopped him from launching a library. LaLonde got the idea to start a Tool Library for the Bloomington-Normal area while serving as an intern for the university’s Action Research Center (ARC)’s Community Partnership Program.

“I received an email from Katie Rose Brosnan, a fellow ARC intern, about a $25,000 grant that State Farm Insurance had just awarded to a Philadelphia organization that was starting a Tool Library. I thought the concept of free tool lending was a fantastic idea, I researched tool libraries to find out if there were any near Bloomington-Normal; there were none,” LaLonde said.

Luckily, LaLonde didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. The Tool Library Starter Kit from ShareStarter “has been my go-to for pretty much everything,” he told LJ. And of course, he has the university’s and public libraries for inspiration. “We’re trying to use the model of the traditional library as much as possible,” he said.

The Tool Library received initial funding from the City of Bloomington’s Community Development Block Grant and by the end of August, the West Bloomington Revitalization Project also supported the Tool Library.

The library will be housed at the Project’s office, beginning November 10. A tool drive will be held at the office on Oct. 20 to build the collection, and The Action Research Center will also accept tools during its office hours.

The tool library will check out a tool for a week, with an option of renewal; for each day it is overdue that the library is open, the fine will be $1. In future, that “when open” part may not be necessary: A tool drop is in the works. And next semester the library should be able to expand its hours, since the university will fund two part time tool librarian student workers through the Action Research Center.

In addition, the project is a candidate for a $2,500 “Improve Your Community Challenge” grant. Online voting will continue through October 11. (Also up for the grant is another library-related project: Philadelphia Public School Library Build.)

Grant funding, if it comes through, will be used to purchase an inventory tracking system. “If not, we’ll have to fly by the seat of our pants,” said LaLonde.

For individuals who want to chip in, LaLonde is in the process of setting up a PayPal account that would channel funds though the Revitalization Project (the nonprofit acts as the Tool Library’s fiscal agent). He’s also considering a crowdsourcing campaign. In the meantime, contributions can be sent to the Project’s mailing address.

LaLonde hasn’t spoken to the Bloomington Public Library about the Tool Library yet, but he hopes to partner with the library in future. “We could make the public library a drop off spot or have them help us promote,” he told LJ.

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz ( is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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