Blogging about my experience with library donations…
Yesterday I was dropping off some books for donation and happened to notice one of their book sales actually going on so I checked it out. I walked into a room with rows and rows of books and my heart sank. Paperbacks went for $.25, hardbacks…
Just a few different things to consider:
1. Some libraries buy multiple copies of bestsellers so patrons don’t sit on a wait list for months to read that new James Patterson. Eventually, the list dies down and that shelf space could go to new materials. This means the books have to be pulled!
2. Some libraries sell their discarded books at sales. This is great for community members, as well as organizations that need resources at a low price. Some teachers just don’t have the funds to collect books for their classrooms and they can get a bunch for a low price at these sales.
3. Some libraries throw out their discards. This might seem scary, but there are policies being followed. Books that are moldy need to go in the dumpster! They can spread to other books and ruin them. Other books might look brand new, like travel guides, but no one is going to benefit from a 2006 travel guide to Cancun. Most of the information will be inaccurate. Other books might look brand new because no one has ever checked them out! Librarians check stats to see how often the book has gone out. A book that has circulated only once in 10 years could be hogging valuable shelf space for a better used book, or space that might go to an extra computer for community members to use!
4. Some libraries send their books to organizations like Better World Books, where they can resell decent quality books and use some of the profits to donate books to literacy programs. However, sending books out-of-house to companies or charities requires extra staff time and sometimes money.
The bottom line is it varies from library to library, and the librarians are following a plan. I PROMISE. Even if you see books in a dumpster, lots of thought has gone into that decision. They’re doing this to benefit the people who use the library. I’m sure your library would be happy to explain their weeding policy to you!
The above answer about weeding is perfect, so I won’t go on about why weeding is important. What struck me more was the OP’s refusal to buy cheap books because she believed they were worth more. That is silly. A book’s value is not determined by how much the publisher decides to charge for it. Nor are books sacred objects. This is why I destroy them sometimes. By passing those books up, you’re demonstrating the same behavior that got those books in the sale in the first place. Libraries do not have the time/space/money to save books that no one wants.
I’m a big believer in aggressive weeding and discarding after I saw some of the donated titles imported at great cost to rural libraries in Uganda. Obsolete computer manuals. American textbooks (that fail to consider standardized and Anglicized national curriculum in Uganda). Impenetrable classics.
I’m a librarian. I love finding homes for books. But some books are ready for retirement.