The Dos, Don’ts, and Duhs of Donations


When I first arrived at Evanston Public Library about a year ago I was astounded by the sheer number of helpful, happy volunteers present in the building.  Volunteers staff our concierge desk in the lobby.  They aid us in Technical Services, handling a metric ton of books each and every week.  And almost most impressive of all, they handle our donations and book sale.

Now there is no good way to write a post about what they FIND donated in our bins without sounding a bit like a scold.  Evanston Library patrons are the most generous folks in the world.  Why just this week three incredibly popular books were donated in pristine condition and immediately added to the library system (they were The Woman in Cabin 10, Razor Girl, and A Man Called Ove, in case you’re curious).  But for every delightful hardcover there are mounds and mounds and mounds of junk.

Example A: Junk

Here then, is an ode to the most egregious donations, with some light-hearted suggestions along the way.  We absolutely adore our donations.  We just don’t adore ALL our donations.

Case in point:

The Case of the Yellowed Paperbacks

I’m not going to say I never add a paperback to this collection.  But given the choice between adding a paperback or a hardcover, I’m always going to go with the hardcover.  Now that’s if the paperback is in pristine condition.  More common, however, is the yellowed, ancient, smelly (more on smelly soon), paperback.  The one you bought back in the day and loved but don’t really need.  Its spine is all bent but you can still read the words, right?  Maybe so, but you should know that if you don’t recycle the book, we will.  Not even the booksale is going to want yellowed paperbacks.  Best to return it to the pulp from whence it came.

donations4Mold City, Baby

I know how it is.  You put together a nice big box of books to donate to the library, but that’s a trip you don’t necessarily have to make today. Or tomorrow.  Or next week.  And so the box sits in your attic, or basement, or garage and just gets older and moldier, and smellier, and generally more gross.  And then, years later, you (or someone you know) takes it to the library.  And we open it.  And it’s like Pandora’s box all over again, except instead of all the ills of the world escaping, it’s just that smell of damp, dank, books that no one will ever want to touch again.

Business and Medicine

Question: What are the most commonly donated books given to the library?

Answer: Business tomes and medicals texts.  Some are good.  Most are woefully out of date.  In truth, even if a book is in pristine condition, if the information in that book is outdated, we’re not going to add it to the library.

donations2No Book Jackets, No Writing, No Service

This goes without saying but if there’s writing in the book, even if it’s just your name, we’re probably not going to add it.  Maybe we’ll sell it. But if the book jacket is missing and it’s old then it’s doubtful it’ll find a happy home here.


Can’t sell ’em.  Can’t bind ’em.  Can’t include ’em in the collection.  Nope.  Magazines aren’t really our bag, baby.


Cassette Tapes


Need I say more?

Coloring Books


I may be getting a little punch drunk at this point.



Okay! Okay!  That’s it!  I’m out!

But let us be clear.  We love our donations.  We do!  Donations are the food of life.  They save us a lot of money.  But your recycling bins are technically closer when it comes to the old, gross, stuff.  Don’t be afraid to use them too!

So thank you, sincerely, for the awesome donations we receive. You can keep your socks, though.  We’re good on footwear, at the moment.


Clowns: Not All of Them Are Psychos, You Know

eb348bb76f6be41a0a96bd2fac9ec9e3Here’s my theory. With the release of a new version of Stephen King’s It, I half suspect that the reason we’ve been seeing a lot of scary clowns in the news lately is that someone started dressing up as a form of viral promotion and things got out of hand.  That’s just my theory, though.  King himself had a very nice public statement recently about how most clowns out there aren’t of the scary variety, and are stand up and cheer decent people just trying to make a living.  In that vein, here are clown books that AREN’T scary in the least, and celebrate those good-natured souls that have willingly taken on one of the trickiest of jobs.

And for the record, finding material about non-creepy clowns is much much harder than finding scary stuff.

Fred the Clown by Robert Langridge


A graphic novel indebted to such influences as Max Fleisher’s animated cartoons (e.g., Betty Boop), comic strips ( Peanuts, Garfield, etc.), underground cartoonists (Crumb, Deitch), and picture-book artists (Seuss, Gorey), Langridge gives us a hero that’s as funny as he is touching.

Cooks, Clowns, and Cowboys: 101 Skills and Experiences to Discover on Your Travels by Andrew Bain


If you want a book that encourages hands-on, immersive experiences around the world, this is the one to try.  Clowning is just a small part of all the wonderful things you can do.  If nothing else, this can also be a book for someone searching for a new hobby.

Funny: The Book: Everything You Wanted to Know About Comedy by David Misch


This book is has a far wider reach than mere clowning, but you’ll find that covered alongside speculations about sitcoms, religion, silent films, and more.

The Clowns


I’d no sooner put together a clown list and fail to mention Fellini than I would put on a clown costume and forget the red nose.  Fellini’s childhood fascination with clowning began in his youth.  In this, one of his lesser known film, he allows it his full adult attention.

Clown Paintings by Diane Keaton


I said this was just going to be a collection of non-creepy clowns and I stand by it, though I suspect some folks might find Keaton’s collection a bit on the odd side.  Apparently Diane Keaton has been collecting clown paintings for years.  Accompanying some of the paintings in her collection is commentary from such comics as (big breath now) Woody Allen, Dan Aykroyd, Roseanne Barr, Candice Bergen, Sandra Berhard, Carol Burnett, Chevy Chase, Larry David, Ellen Degeneres, Danny Devito, Phyllis Diller, Carrie Fisher, Whoopi Goldberg, Bobcat Goldthwait, Goldie Hawn, Eric Idle, Don Knotts, Lisa Kudrow, Nathan Lane, Jay Leno, Jerry Lewis (naturally), Garry Marshall, Steve Martin, Harold Ramis, Paul Reubens, Michael Richards, Joan Rivers, Garry Shandling, Martin Short, Ben Stiller, Dick Van Dyke, John Waters, and Robin Williams.  Something for everyone then.

Working IX to V: Orgy Planners, Funeral Clowns, and other Prized Professions of the Ancient World by Vicky Leon


Yep.  Right there in the subtitle.  “Funeral clown”.  I’m out.

Fall Is Delicious

Usually around this time of year I like to put up a big display of fall books on the first floor.  Mind you, that was before Hamilton: The Musical came to Chicago.  Now my apples have been replaced with Federalist Papers.  Pretty cool, but with all these lovely autumnal materials on our shelves it seems only fitting to let you know about them.  Here then are some particularly toothsome little numbers best befitting this newly chilly season.

Eat Feed Autumn Winter: 30 Ways to Celebrate When the Mercury Drops by Anne Bramley


Let’s face it.  It’s easier to feed your face when the Farmer’s Market is there to provide.  But with the looming closure of our favorite blacktop institution, consider taking a gander at this book to best become a consummate (and truly seasonal) cold-weather cook.

Apples by Frank Browning


Everything you did (and hadn’t thought to) want to know about everyone’s favorite fruit.  From various tree-of-life myths involving the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Celts, French, and Scandinavians to the fruit’s origins in Kazakhstan on the slopes of the Heavenly Mountains, Browning covers his bases.  Be ready for genetics, biotech breeding programs, and cider making  galore.

Purely Pumpkin: More Than 100 Wholesome Recipes to Share, Savor, and Warm Your Kitchen by Alison Day


I know some of you cringe whenever you see the annual onslaught of all the “pumpkin” flavored items that appear around now.  Why not skip all those and go to the real thing instead?  This little book is great for recipe ideas, and has the extra-added bonus of also containing a fair number of gluten-free options as well.

Apples to Cider: How to Make Cider at Home by April White


Of course, for some of you, merely reading about apples won’t be enough.  You must defeat them on your own terms.  Crush their resistance!  And make something yummy in the process.  This book shows you how.

A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash: Seasonal Recipes by Lou Seibbert Pappas


What do the following words have in common:




If you said they were all different kinds of squashes and pumpkins then you are right on the money.  Or, put another way, nom nom nom nom nom.

Apples, from Harvest to Table: 50 Recipes Plus Lore, Crafts and More Starring the Tried-and-True Favorite by Amy Pennington


I know I’m a little fixated on the apples today, but they’re just so darn tasty.  This book is good for folks who, as Library Jounal put it, are “more interested in recipes than in history and botanical information.”

The Chicago Marathon: Past, Present and Future

The other day I was perusing the blogs of the New York Public Library (my old stomping grounds) when I came across a piece that was strangely pertinent to my current location.  Called Researching the Chicago Marathon the piece talked about this past Sunday’s race and mentioned the following:

Most runners who are interested in or will run the Chicago Marathon have two main resources to read: One is the Chicago Marathon website where runners register, and the other is the World Marathon Majors’ website, since the Chicago Marathon is one of the six World Marathon Majors—joining the Tokyo, London, Boston, Berlin, and NYC marathons as one of the largest and most renowned races in the world.

But since this was written by a researcher, what they really wanted to know was more about the race’s history.  Maps, train systems, pertinent databases, and books all play a part.

Well.  That got me curious.  Here we have a NYPL librarian doing all this research.  What does Evanston Public Library have to offer the marathon-curious?  Here then are some pertinent titles, just in case you’ve a hankering for some marathoning (and yep, I do indeed regret writing that, but for whatever reason I’m not going to amend it).

The Chicago Marathon by Andrew G. Suozzo


Mentioned in the NYPL piece, the researcher says he, “found the historic information fascinating: Andrew Suozzo covers the history of the Chicago Marathon starting from its grassroots foundation from local clubs and the initial political obstacle it faced. Later, the focus shifts from Mayor Bilandic honoring the first marathon to the late Mayor Daley, to the stories behind the elite male and female runners who broke world records on the course.”

Running Commentary: A Life on the Run by Will Van Dyke


They say it’s inspirational to both new runners and old.  A tale of a man, and how he proceeds to show what 50 years worth of running can do for a person.

Aaaaaaaand  . . . . . *checks website* . . . . yeah, that’s all we’ve got folks.  At least about the Chicago marathon specifically.  But if you’d like a couple books on becoming a marathoner yourself, then please be so good as to consider these:


Imagine running a thousand marathons in a thousand days so as to reach enlightenment.  Some monks do it!  Japan, as it turns out, is the most running obsessed country in the world and this book shows precisely how and why.

Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon Training by Hal Higdon


If you’d like to start marathoning, but you don’t want to go whole hog, consider Mr. Higdon’s methods for a kind of start.

Meb for Mortals: How to Run, Think, and Eat Like a Champion Marathoner by Meb Keflezighi


Publishers Weekly called this book, ” a perfect accessory for marathon training.”  Its author won the 2014 Boston Marathon and this book covers everything you might need to get ready.  As PW concluded, “The format is clean and the writing is simple and strong, all making this book a valuable tool for anyone with their sights set on running a marathon.”