Please, don’t

Over the many years of my career I’ve had the pleasure(?) of weeding/deaccessioning many books. Four of the five collections I’ve worked with have needed serious updating and reworking — and that’s not including the collection that burned down and needed to be completely replaced. Post-fire, I also seriously weeded my personal collection, getting rid of about half of the books; I continue to be judicious about what stays on the shelves after being read. So I’m kind of an expert in What To Do With the Old Books.

One of the markers of New Year Resolutions is the idea that this year — this year! — [writer] will get organized, and even more authors are offering advice. Be More With Less has been one of my personal “go to”s for ideas on organization, simplification, etc.. However, in this piece on 25 Places to Donate Books, the author often gets it wrong.

Yes… and no. Yes, local public libraries are vital community organizations. However, not all have a Friends group that will organize and sell used books, or the sale may be limited to specific dates, or they may only accept certain types of books. Check with your library before just showing up with boxes of books!

Do you see the part about the ALA sponsoring National Bookmobile Day? That’s because bookmobiles are part of the local library. They’re not an independent entity. The “typical” operator is a library. So, before donating, see above re: check with your library.

Nothing on the website suggests they’re accepting books – let alone used books. Also, these are for kids, not adults. Your collection of Dr. Seuss books read and reread countless times is probably not in any shape to be donated, and your murder mystery or romance books are too old.

Again, check first: prisons want paperbacks, not hardbacks. There also may be restrictions on genres or age appropriateness.

I have such a huge problem with this idea. School libraries are not just random collections of books. Nor are they mysteriously “maintained” by the school. Ok, I know, many schools have tried to patch budget gaps by doing away with libraries and librarians, but any book collections are not “maintained” in these schools, they’re usually classroom collections selected by the teachers (if there’s even a budget for that) or there’s a connection to a public library who can handle the collection.

When the Hackley library burned down, we had many, many kind offers from people offering to donate their books (or collections of National Geographic). The book collection done over the course of a professor’s career is not suitable for a K-12 audience. Even though we had a list of every book destroyed, we were not interested in a 1:1 replacement – we wanted current non-fiction (science books from the 80s? no thank you…) Nor did we want someone’s prized collection of Time-Life books on the various war battles.

The problem with the above is that it presumes that the books you want to get rid of will be gratefully accepted and used by the organizations you’re choosing. I can’t repeat this enough, check with the organization to see what their requirements and limitations are (one public library limits donations to one box/20 books at a time due to lack of space to store them before their Friends sale). You also need to check for markings – no one wants to read your highlighted or annotated books.

There are some good ideas, though, and I encourage you to try them first (again, check with them!):

Assisted Living Communities
Better World Books
Books for Africa
Books for Soldiers
Boys & Girls Clubs
Children’s Hospitals
Community Centers
Donation Town (local charities)
Friends and Family
Goodwill / Salvation Army / Savers
Local Used Bookstores
Pickup Please
Reader to Reader

Books on the Subway
“Free Books” bos/shelf at work

Miss Print has a great infographic that distills all this – print it!

2 thoughts on “Please, don’t”

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