Every year I get a lot of books for Christmas and I’m at the point where my shelves are at capacity, I’m trying to stick to a “one in, one out” policy at home now which means I’ll end up with a box of books to donate to my local library. I try to think to myself, “would someone else actually buy this?” Like if it’s a travel book that’s a decade old or a classic that’s a little too classic and is falling apart, those I will not foist on my library I’ll recycle them myself.
But many community members are not as thoughtful as me… maybe that’s because they are not the facilitator of the MHLS Friends Support Group and they haven’t heard how much the volunteer book sorters loathe donors who drop off moldy, musty, damaged books that no one would actually pay money for.
Each time this subject comes up at the Friends Support Group meetings it is news to at least one group that they can recycle books, I follow up with an email to the group about where to recycle the books and wonder how many others are doing the midnight dumpster dumps (because everyone knows we get yelled at for throwing away books!) rather than recycling what they can.
If you haven’t already, create a policy that defines what you take and what you will not, check out this example from the Plymouth Public Library. Here’s what I like about it:
- Defines when the library accepts donations
- States the library’s right to dispose of donations that do not meet the needs of the library or their book sale
- Defines what is accepted, in terms of format, currency and condition
- Expresses gratitude for thinking of donating to the library
In a perfect world your library would also have written sorting criteria for volunteers that would include what to do with books unworthy of the book sale, it would be great if it defined recycling as part of the procedures and instructions for what to do to prep materials for recycling and what condition an item would have to be in to be unacceptable for recycling in your community. Call your recycling center or transfer station (usually municipal or county based) to understand their rules.
For Disappointed Donors: I like the idea of creating defined times of year for when the library will accept donations. This helps the library manage storage of donations and schedule volunteers in a more streamlined way. But just because you have the policy doesn’t mean everyone in your community will have read it or follow it (I know, scandalous!) So occasionally a well-meaning citizen will arrive at your library with a trunk full of their unwanted treasure for the library when you are emphatically, but politely, not accepting. Help out by having a list of alternate organizations that are open to accepting donations. Check out this “Re-Use Guide” put out by the County of San Mateo.