The Rise of Kitchen Tool Libraries Is Making Cooking More Accessible to All

It’s happened to all of us at one point or another: There you are, reading through the recipe for your latest dinnertime experiment, and the instructions call for a tool that just isn’t in the pantry—or utensil drawer, or dusty recesses of the cabinet or, well, anywhere in your kitchen. Whether it’s a funky-shaped pan, a spiralizer for whipping up zucchini noodles or something that takes intricate to a whole new level (looking at you, pasta roller), there’s nothing more frustrating than getting halfway through a recipe and realizing a lack of proper tool(s) make it a no-go. And buying a tool for a single recipe? That seems a little extreme—even for the most dedicated home cooks.

Enter a fresh idea for making kitchen tools more accessible—and affordable!—so home cooks never have to encounter this problem again: kitchen tool lending libraries.

Riding the wave of the larger “tool library” trend—where public libraries or community groups offer everything from shovels and hammers to power-saws free-of-charge to “check out” like books—kitchen lending libraries are allowing people to check out kitchen tools instead of purchasing them, and in the process, helping save money and recipe dreams.

“We began the collection this spring to give library patrons the opportunity to try new gadgets without having to purchase or store them. A lot of times, our users need a kitchen tool only one time or for one event, so this way they can borrow the item and give it back when they're done,” says Adaena Tray of the Green Tree Public Library in Pittsburgh, who notes that the most popular tool to checkout so far has been the air fryer. “Our response has been overwhelmingly positive. Many people are surprised and delighted to hear that a public library would lend out kitchen tools.”

WATCH: How to Make Air Fried Grilled Cheese

Kitchen tool lending libraries—which have sprouted up from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine—also help fight back against kitchen clutter and reduce the odds that avid cooks end up with single-use gadgets sitting idly by, taking up space. Have some of those? Most kitchen libraries also take donations, meaning you can give your well-loved (or lightly loved) tool a new lease on life. And for those people in cramped apartments that lack storage space for cooking paraphernalia, the kitchen tool lending library could be a true gamechanger, making the difference between actually cooking at home versus falling back on delivery every night.

And while most communities are still coming around to the idea, your local library might just surprise you with what kind of kitchen tools are already available. A recent viral tweet showed off rows and rows of cake pans ready to be checked out at a library in Pennsylvania. Who knew?