I am so very fortunate to be educated and literate with access to a fantastic library system and the means to buy books as well. While I have gotten a little click-happy with ordering books online more times than I'd like to admit, I always feel good about supporting local book stores. I love browsing and discovering some hidden gem or interesting title I had never heard of before. The odds of this sort of serendipity occurring seems to increase if I'm in a used bookstore which just adds to the fun.
However, I recently realized (again!) that I no longer had any shelf space left. As Andy Miller wrote in The Year of Reading Dangerously, "I had confused 'art' with 'shopping'. Books, for instance. I had a lot of those. There they all were, on the shelves and on the floor, piled up by the bed and falling out of boxes." While my collection is fairly well contained, I couldn't help but see myself a little bit in Andy's observation. Book shopping is fun in its own way, but it doesn't hold a candle to the actual reading. That's the really fun part.
So what's a bookworm to do? Cull, cull, and cull some more. If you're looking for some ideas of where to send books, here's where this round of culling is headed:
1. Schools via Reach A Reader's ARCs Float On
Bloggers, check this program out! This is a great way to responsibly deal with review books you are done with or that are so far past their publication date that it's time to let them go. I chose to offer the teachers I contacted finished books as well since I have so many to pass on right now. Personally, I'd rather pay for media mail shipping and know my old ARCs are going someplace they are wanted, than to push them on local schools that aren't actively seeking out or willing to accept them. I contacted three different teachers, received prompt responses, and have been busily boxing everything up to get into the mail. If there is a teacher in the directory near you, you might even be able to drop them off. Reach A Reader also has many more resources listed here for additional donation options.
2. My grandmother's account at her local used bookstore
I have an account there too, but seriously, I don't need any more credit than I already have! My grandmother shares an account with two of my aunts, so they often run out of credit. This particular store only takes paperbacks, so any books I didn't think would work for high schoolers, I have in a bag for the next time I visit. It obviously doesn't have to be your grandmother, but if you know someone with a trade account at a used bookstore, I'm sure they would appreciate a little bump to their balance if you have extra books to share.
3. My local used bookstore
This store takes hardcovers, so any of those that didn't seem like a good fit for a high school are going there. Mostly this has consisted of mid-life, middle age, finding-peace-after-divorce type of fiction -- which other than a familiar author name catching my eye, I don't even know why I even picked up these types of books and I'm considerably older than a high schooler! I don't send all my books here, but I do like supporting a small, independent business.
4. My brother's girlfriend's mom
I found out she reads Nora Roberts and despite the fact that I used to read her books, I haven't picked any up in the past several years. My own mom has borrowed and read them all, so I'm glad others have and will enjoy them, but it's time for me to move on! It's definitely worth asking around if you want to share some excess books with friends and family.
5. Better Worlds Books donation bin in my library's parking lot
A handful of books I didn't think the schools or bookstores would want are going here. If they can't use the books in their online store, they get recycled, so this is often a last-ditch option for the odd stragglers I don't know what else to do with. See if there is a collection bin near you here.
|SOME of the piles to be boxed up.|
Some additional ideas:
1. Donate to a Little Free Library
A few months ago, I gave a friend a big pile for her Little Free Library, but I didn't want to overwhelm her with another avalanche of books. If you don't know anyone who runs a Little Free Library, you could start your own! Also, the whole premise of these libraries is "take a book, leave a book" so could always participate as a patron of any Little Free Library you come across. Search for one near you here.
2. Donate to a nursing home
Before I moved, I worked at a nursing home/rehabilitation center and we regularly received book donations to share with the patients and residents. I would recommend contacting them ahead of time to make sure they are willing to accept your books and have the space to store them, etc. You'd want to ask for the Recreation or Therapeutic Recreation (TR) Department.
3. Donate to a doctor's office or other organization
While I mostly think of magazines when it comes to waiting room donations, I know my son's pediatrician has a rack of picture books in every exam room. I haven't done this myself, but I'm sure when the time comes I could ask at the desk if they needed any additional books. If finding a local organization to share your books with is important to you (and you'd like to avoid shipping fees!), it can't hurt to ask! Call, email, or ask the next time you are visiting or nearby. Be aware they may decline your offer for various reasons (don't need any more books, don't want/need the types of books you are offering, don't have storage space, don't have anyone to sort/handle/distribute the donations, etc.), but you never know! If you inquire ahead of time, you give them the opportunity to evaluate whether or not they are willing and able to put your books to good use. Shelters, schools, after-school programs, day-care centers -- there a lot of options if you want to do some research.
4. Donate to a Library Book Sale
In my experience, a lot of libraries do NOT accept donations, unless they have a Friends of the Library group that coordinates book sale fundraisers. If your library does have a Friends group that runs these sales throughout the year, ask about how/where they accept donations. Some accept books year-round and others might have designated drop-off times or dates.
I feel like I was evaluating my collection pretty ruthlessly, pulling out well over 100 books, but I still have A LOT of books left in my house! So what the heck kinds of books are still on my shelves if I got rid of so many? I'm mostly keeping favorites, unread books I am still excited to read someday, and what I will loosely term "classics." That last category includes a LOT of children's books for various ages I'd like to share with my son as he gets older.
I am hoping this experience will help me to let go of books I'm done with more easily in the future and also be more mindful about future book purchases -- honing in on what is worth adding to (or keeping in) my collection versus what is just adding to the clutter. And let me tell you, knowing that so many of the books leaving my home would be going into classrooms made it SO much easier to let them go. That was my biggest lesson I think -- having a plan and knowing that any books I remove from my collection will be used and appreciated helped make my decisions about what to keep and what to give away so much easier.
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Have you ever done a major culling of your book collection? Do you have any other tips, tricks, or donation suggestions to share? Please tell us in the comments!