Today’s guest post is written by Ruth DeWitt, the Friends Coordinator at the Lawrence Public Library in Kansas. She is responsible for overseeing all the book donations that come to the library. We contacted her to give us deeper insight as to what to donate, what to trash, and what to sell or Freecycle. Her insights taught us a great deal. You can learn more about the Lawrence Public Library — an extremely vibrant and technology-driving library — on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Uncluttering? One of the hardest things to get rid of is our books. We have emotional ties to our books. Whether we bonded with a character, learned a lesson from the story, or were inspired by someone’s biography, books make personal memories for us — and because of that, they are almost impossible to throw away. But … they take up room, and there are only so many bookshelves we can put in our house, they are heavy to move around, and are we really going to re-read that mystery when we already know the ending?
So, how do you get rid of your books? First, the hard truth is, some books actually can be thrown away. If books have gotten wet in a damp basement, are moldy with brown spots, have covers torn off or pages missing, it is time for them to be recycled. (Note: it is not always easy to find a waste company that recycles books, please check with your local service first.) Even very old books usually lose their value when they are in terrible condition. So, be brave, honestly assess the condition of some of your favorite reads, and if they are bad, please discard.
Second, check with your local library to see if they have a Friends group. Generally, Friends groups are separate entities from your library, which have as their mission raising money in support of the local library’s programming, collections, equipment, or activities. Not all, but many Friends groups resell donated books either through online sales, used book sales, book stores in the library, or honor-system displays scattered around the town, or a combination. In other words, many Friends groups’ very bread and butter are your gently used, donated books. It is a great way to unclutter your space, and feel great about passing your books on to a new home. And, in some instances, you can get a receipt for a tax donation.
But, before you back the moving van up to your library, please check with your Friends group. They probably have a list of what they will and can’t accept, and please respect that list. You can probably find it on your library’s website. If you have a huge donation, please contact them directly, as it is sometimes difficult to accept huge amounts of books at once or there may be a different place to drop large donations, rather than a typical lobby drop box for a couple of bags. Because of liability issues, it is not easy for a Friends group (who are mostly staffed by volunteers) to come to your house and pick up your books. It may be possible, but that is based on the group’s policy. Most likely, you will need to get the books to the library yourself.
Our Friends group in Lawrence, Kansas, recently adopted some guidelines when we moved into a smaller space because of a library renovation. We had to stop accepting vinyl (which we plan to resume when we move into the renovated building), but many Friends groups have stopped taking it all together. We followed the lead of many of our local Friends entities, and are no longer accepting VHS or cassette tapes. We cannot take magazines, yes, even National Geographic, or Encyclopedia sets. A lot of us have found our beautiful Encyclopedia sets are taking up a lot of room, and have been displaced by something called “the internet,” but they don’t sell at Friends sales regardless of what terrific shape they’re in. They do, however, often get snatched up on Craigslist or if you have a local Freecycle network where they can be listed for free. There are some folks out there who are happy to give them a good home. DVDs, Audiobooks, and sheet music are usually good sellers, and we accept both video and board games, and they do very well.
Again, please be sure to check with your local library before you bring your piles of books to them. No matter where you are, it is a guarantee that your library Friends will put your donation to good use by not only selling your books, but giving the proceeds back to the library. The group also serves to promote literacy by getting low priced books into the community, and makes reading and the love of books accessible to all. There is hardly a better cause, and you’ve created more space in your living area at the same time.