Ask a Librarian: What do I do with these old books?

13 liquor boxes full of books
When you work with libraries, people ask you a lot of questions about what to do with old books, presumably books they don’t want. Here are ten tips that are good to know about donating books in general.

  1. Just because books are old doesn’t make them valuable (you can check values here). Librarians intrinsically know this but many other people don’t.
  2. Just because someone had a massive research collection of books/papers on a topic doesn’t mean that a library could benefit from that but maybe they could. It’s always AOK to find a library–almost always an academic or special library–that specializes in whatever the topic is, and ask if they want them.
  3. Most library booksales are run by friends groups and not the library (learn more about friends groups here)
  4. Donating to a library usually means books will go into the book sale (or possibly even be recycled) and almost never means they will go on the shelf. Do not donate books to a library unless you are clear on this and okay with this.
  5. At libraries with really active booksales, books with higher value may get sold online, not at the local sale. The benefit to donating to the library is that the money goes to the library (or the Friends of the Library and ultimately the library) If you have fancy signed first editions, you might be better off selling them yourself on eBay and donating that money to the library.
  6. There is standard stuff most libraries don’t want including textbooks, old reference books, Readers Digest condensed books and anything damp, moldy or in bad shape. Many libraries have more information on their websites about what they specifically want and don’t want.
  7. It’s always a great idea to call/email to make sure the library is accepting donations and ask when a good time is to come by.
  8. Libraries are non-profit so you can often get a tax deduction for your donation but you may need to ask for a receipt.
  9. Pack up your books in durable boxes that are liftable by the average 50-70 year old person.
  10. Do not presume the library will have a hand cart, but you can usually presume they will have an accessible entrance.

Sometimes you have books or other readable stuff that just won’t make the cut to be in the library booksale. It happens. There are many other things that can be done with old books including book art (maybe you have a book artist near you), donation or recycling, or maybe even fire starters (let me know if you need a note saying this is okay). I just donated about 300 books to my local library for their booksale. I contacted them on facebook and they gave me a good time to come by. They had a hand truck but no one available to help move books. I got a receipt for my donation. They told me where to park to minimize the distance I had to carry the books. It went really well. Got some extra books laying around? Consider donating them to the public library!

4 comments for “Ask a Librarian: What do I do with these old books?

  1. Russ Thomas
    01Sep18 at 12:20

    This is great! We just had our sale mid-August. Lots of rejects, as usual. Using our website for sale info sounds good too. Happy trails!
    Russ

  2. Jillian Sauers
    02Sep18 at 4:11

    Books that don’t have a high resale value or are in rougher condition can also be donated to organizations that send books into the prison system. Some states do not permit second-hand books being sent, but Texas does. insidebooksproject.org is a great organization to look into.

  3. 02Sep18 at 4:13

    Books that don’t have a high resale value or are in rougher condition can also be donated to organizations that send books into the prison system. Some states do not permit second-hand books being sent, but Texas does. Inside Books Project is a great organization.

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