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.


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