Everything You Need To Know About Donating Books to the Library (And What to Do With Them Instead)

If you’re a part of Library Twitter, you might have seen a thread from me about libraries and book donations. I’ve compiled all of that information here with some other useful links and an infographic at the bottom of this post:

Why Your Library Might Not Want Your Books:

  • Libraries have to consider the cost of materials and labor: Book donations are often more costly to the library than you think. The library needs to accept and store donations. If they add them to a collection that also involves processing it to add to the online catalog plus adding labels, barcode, etc. If book ordering and processing is centralized that’s one more barrier to discourage adding donated books to a collection.
  • Most donations are gross: Even if your books are pristine, most aren’t. A lot of people are very precious about books and use donating to libraries as a way to get rid of books they don’t want to throw out. Meaning libraries get out-of-date, beat-up materials they can’t use.
  • Nothing lasts forever. Including books: A healthy and functional library system routinely weeds for condition, low circulation, and other issues. You don’t want a library that will keep everything you give them. It speaks to a lack of attention to community needs/interests.
  • Librarians can’t be precious about books. You want them to have that so -called thick skin because it means they are paying attention to what the library community wants and needs on shelves.
  • Books are the least of what libraries have to offer the public. Before you spend all of your concern on the books, remember all the other services libraries offer and all of the support library workers provide your community.
  • Libraries are very worried about protecting patrons AND staff from exposure to Covid-19. Part of that is limited services. Part of it might also include no longer accepting donations.

Wherever You Donate Books:

  • Wherever you donate, especially if you plan on donating in bulk: ASK FIRST
  • There might be specific requirements for donations and specific times in which donations are accepted.
  • Even if they accepted donations in the past, things change and you don’t want to take a trip for nothing.
  • Do NOT leave donations after being told they will not be accepted.

Donated Books Should Be:

  • Pristine: no tears, no writing or highlighting, no mold/foxing, dust jackets if applicable, no ex-library copies. If you wouldn’t buy it at a book sale, don’t donate it.
  • Recent: If you are donating non-fiction it should have been published within the last five years. Older than that runs the risk of spreading out of date information.
  • No textbooks: These are usually too specialized for public libraries and even for academic libraries are probably out of date.
  • No encyclopedias: They’re out of date. Don’t do it.
  • No periodicals: Do not bring your old magazines to the library. After you read them their next step in life should be the recycling bin.

When You Donate:

  • Donating a book does not mean it will enter the collection. Your books might instead be sold in a library book sale (another costly process for the library to put together), given away at programs, or recycled by the library themselves.
  • Remember, once you donate a book, you’re done with it. Which is to say you will not be able to control what happens next. Some will be used and read. Some will be sold.
  • Many donated books will be recycled. This is the natural cycle of a book (really). The good thing about donating is, even if they end up being recycled, it will be done properly because the donation site probably has a relationship with a book recycling facility.

Your Library Doesn’t Take Donations. Now What?

Before we talk about donation options, I also want to be clear: “readable” is not the same as “donatable.” Any books you donate should be pristine—new or very good condition with dust jackets if applicable. For non-fiction this also means recent. Older than 5 years? Recycle it.

Remember: ALWAYS ASK before donating books.

You can try contacting the places below:

  • Local Schools/Teachers (when books are age appropriate): With very few exceptions your books will not end up in a school library, but they might be useful for a teacher’s classroom library.
  • Local Hospitals: Many hospitals have waiting rooms or other sites with books. Be prepared for them to have restrictions on what they can accept and when, especially with the pandemic.
  • Thrift Stores/Used Bookstores: You might find a store that will buy books from you. They will pay a fraction of retail. You might also find stores that will accept donations to resell.
  • Local Shelters
  • Retirement Centers and Nursing Homes: Many people chimed in with this suggestion. They might only accept specific formats or types of books so be sure to check before trying to drop something off.
  • Local Literacy Programs
  • After School/Daycare Programs (when age appropriate)
  • Armed Forces Charities: There are many organizations that get books into the hands of members of the armed forces. You can get details on where to start at Books for Soldiers and Operation Paperback.
  • Prison Libraries: Many prison libraries are also desperate for materials. They are a great place to donate but will have restrictions on the types of books they can accept (this could be both for content and format). Details can be found here: https://prisonbookprogram.org/prisonbooknetwork/

What Else Can You Do With Books You Want to Donate?

If you don’t have any luck with any of the above you can also:

  • Add your books to a little free library (or create one)
  • Ask at local laundromats
  • Set up book swaps in your community (following safety protocols)
  • Post them on Paperback Swap: This is a trading site where you can post individual books for trade. They also run periodic campaigns accepting donations for schools and the military.
  • Use books for altered book crafts including folded book sculptures, collage, using pages for origami, etc. You can find some book art tutorials in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaCIIkaCEX4

Other Ways to Support Your Library:

Libraries are so much more than books. The best ways to support your local library (and your library’s workers) are to use it, to give cash donations, and to advocate for the library with your elected officials.

Book Donation Infographic made by Emma Carbone

Book Display: Blind Date With a Book

Happy Valentine’s Day! I love this holiday (and the discount chocolate I will be buying tomorrow) with zero irony. I also love using the holiday as an excuse to make a wrapped book display for my monthly YA display.

A wrapped book display is exactly what it sounds like: all of the books are covered to hide the title and author information.

Here’s the finished display:This year I wrapped the books and composed short annotations based on jacket copy, plot summary, or first lines from the books. My teen intern transcribed these annotations and decorated with her own artwork and hearts that she cut out with out die cut machine.

Here’s one with my favorite annotation and one of my favorite finished decorating projects from my intern:

I make sure to pick books that have multiple copies on the shelves so that nothing is accidentally declared missing while it’s undercover.

I wrap every book like a gift and make sure to cut out a notch for the barcode for easy checkout.

Here’s what the back of a wrapped book looks like:


Which ones would you check out from this display?

This Time Will Be Different: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Be careful about what you share and who you share it with. Own your power, and don’t apologize for demanding respect. Control the narrative.”

“But the trees whisper to me that life is bigger than my fears . . .”

CJ Katsuyama is the mediocre daughter in a family known for its grit.

Instead of a series of accomplishments that would make her family proud, CJ has a lot of failures that her mom likes to refer to as learning opportunities.

How can that compare to her grandfather who worked for years to buy back Heart’s Desire after his father was forced to sell it at a fraction of the cost before he and his family were interned with other Japanese Americans during WWII? How can CJ hope to impress her mom who had CJ on her own while being the first woman of color to earn a top position at her venture capital firm when CJ herself managed to fail out of coding camp?

It’s no wonder CJ feels like she has more in common with her free spirited aunt Hannah, especially now that she’s learning about flower arranging and the language of flowers as Hannah’s apprentice at the family flower store Heart’s Desire.

Just when it feels like she could be good at something, CJ finds out that Heart’s Desire is struggling and might have to be sold. CJ is willing to try anything to save the shop, even scheming with her nerdy fellow shop apprentice Owen Takasugi. With everything she cares about on the line CJ starts to learn more about her family’s history and realizes she might finally be ready see how much she has to offer in This Time Will Be Different (2019) by Misa Sugiura.

Find it on Bookshop.

This Time Will Be Different is Sugiura’s sophomore novel.

First things first: CJ’s voice is so great in this book. Her first person narration is conversational and honest and made it a lot easier to swallow all of the ways this book called me out for not taking risks or being proactive in my own life. I am not sure I have ever felt so called out by a book.

While the crux of the story focuses on CJ’s efforts to save Heart’s Desire and thereby discover some of her own grit, Sugiura also looks head on at the ugly legacy of the Japanese American internment and the racism at its core. The long term effects of that legacy play out on a personal level as CJ sees how both her mother and her aunt try to deal with their family history and the ramifications it has had in CJ’s town where so many public spaces are named after the white man who was at the forefront of advocating for internment.

CJ is also forced to confront her own biases when her best friend Emily starts crushing on Brynn–a white, overachieving student and CJ’s longtime nemesis–a conflict that is resolved with some incredibly thoughtful conversations about what it means to be an ally and one of the best interrogations of the white savior problem that I’ve ever read.

The plot is fleshed out with a lot of humor, one madcap run with a ladder, and CJ’s own confused navigation of romance as she tries to get closer to her crush, gets to know Owen, and deals with quite a few missed connections.

This Time Will Be Different is a smart story about a girl learning that you don’t always have to win to succeed—sometimes you just have to try. Recommended for readers who are ready to be an advocate or an ally and anyone who’s ever needed someone to tell them to start saying yes.

Possible Pairings: Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi, Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett, Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman, Finding Yvonne by Brandy Colbert, Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley, 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston, No One Here is Lonely by Sarah Everett, The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo, An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han, Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks, Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean, Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai, Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills, Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks, Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood, Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian; Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction: A Non-Fiction Review

cover art for Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in the Age of Distraction by Derek ThompsonWhat takes a song from a moderately enjoyable earworm to an unavoidable hit? How does a movie go from a solid screenplay to a worldwide phenomenon? In an age of social media saturation can any content ever really go “viral”? Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in the Age of Distraction (2017) by Derek Thompson endeavors to answer some of these questions.

Hit Makers explores what makes a hit with surprising results as he examines how exposure, familiarity, and other factors play into the often ineffable quality of popular appeal.

In chapters themed around popular music, movies, and television Thompson examines various sensations from their inception to the moment they were decidedly a hit. Examples include how “School House Rock” went from a middling B-Side song to the defining song of a generation thanks to one nine-year-old’s music collection, the origin story like legend surrounding Star Wars, and how one writer of Twilight fanfic managed to tap into the zeitgeist and create a sensation of her own.

This book is at its best when Thompson is sharing stories instead of disseminating theories and facts although those are just as fascinating to learn. Some gems include the exposure effect (being the right thing and being seen), fluency vs. disfluency (as it relates to people wanting to be shocked while simultaneously gravitating toward what they already know), as well as the principle of striving for the most advanced yet acceptable outcome in all things. There are a lot of interesting takeaways here although the ultimate lesson remains that culture is chaos and there’s no good or consistent way to predict a hit.

Hit Makers is approachable nonfiction at its best and a must read for anyone with more than a passing interest in pop culture. Recommended.