Friday, July 07, 2017

About those bookshelves!

I have been following the advice of the Shark and reading much more widely than I used to in my chosen category/genre. It's brilliant. I get to read outstanding stories, I constantly reaffirm how much I enjoy my category/genre, I support authors in it by attending their events and buying their books (and sometimes I make direct connections with them), and I learn something from almost every book that helps me refine my own writing. One recent book gave me ideas on how to handle dual POV that are directly applicable to my WIP. Another was notable for its outstanding voice and characterizations, yet another for its creation of a beautifully strange world that was both like our own and not.

The only downside is that shelf space at home is growing tighter and tighter. I would be happy to give away some of these books, but I am mindful of not wanting to cannibalize sales of new books. Do you have favorite ways to pass books on to others that maximize the benefits for both authors and readers?
As you might suspect, having won one yourself, my favorite ploy for reducing inventory is running a flash fiction contest and sending books to the winner.

That option is not the best for people who don't have an exaltation of readers lining up with quill and ink to write contest entries.

I think the best place for used books is the Friends of your local library donation box. When I moved to New York City I donated my entire collection to the Friends. (They needed a pickup truck for all the boxes.)

As to your concern about cannibalizing front list sales: Friends of the Library sales won't do that. For starters, the people who attend that sale are generally library patrons already, and thus their library most likely has a copy of most of the books you'll be donating.

Second, the FoL sale is a great way for readers to find new authors.

Third,  in supporting the public library you're helping an institution that is the foundation of democracy and that's no small thing.

[Not for nothing does Brother Muzone extol the benefits of a library card]

Free access to a wealth of knowledge is way a person can rise in the world regardless of circumstance.  I sincerely hope no one would fault you supporting that.










51 comments:

Amy Schaefer said...

Also consider hospitals and retirement homes if your local library isn't currently accepting donations.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

I'm always happy to read about "beautifully strange worlds!"

You reminded me that our local library book sale is today. Good thing I plan to go to town this morning.

Our supermarket has a bin just inside the door where people put books. It's an honor system sale that donates to rotating community organizations.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

To share an overflowing plate is admirable. To give away that which you covet is honorable. To donate knowledge, entertainment and escape is most noble.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Janet: THANK YOU for mentioning the Friends of the Library specifically, and not the library itself. From where I have my toes in libraryland, it's a key distinction. Typically, for library donations (at my library) we only want new, recently published books in good condition. We say 10 years or less, but we're unlikely to circulate anything that old (depending) and we only have so much room and staff to handle those things overall.

But people won't listen when we tell them that. The bring old textbooks. Old encyclopedias. Old National Geographics can be useful, as we take our issues from the most recent years to be bound and are missing a couple. While this gets them out of peoples' houses, they aren't so great for the library. If your Friends have a big booksale, though, it's fantastic!

Another venue to consider donations: Your local nursing homes and medical centers. Frequently they're building their own libraries (like at a nursing home or outpatient facility) or have their own teensy book sale (the emergency room).

Colin Smith said...

Sorry to say, I'm a bit of a book hoarder. Wait. No, I'm not sorry. My justification is two-fold. First, a lot of the books I have (both fiction and non-fiction) were recommended, so I don't have a lot of duds. They are all books I might go back to and re-read, or at least consult. Second, and probably most important, I'm building a library for my offspring. I'm hoping when I'm done here, my kids and their kids will benefit (intellectually and emotionally) from all those books. There's always a chance they'll sell them all. I hope they don't. But by then, I won't care. :)

That said, donating to your local "Friends of the Library" is a great way to clear shelf space. That, and contests. :D

Donnaeve said...

How odd to have this post today when I was just in my office looking at the stacks and stacks and stacks of books yet to read, the ones I want to keep, and the ones I have to (need to) give up. As you can tell from that last sentence, I want to cling to ALL of my books with the fervor of a boa constrictor clenching onto something it wants to eat.

About two years ago or so, I went into my local library here in my little town and said, "I have a box of books I'd like to donate. They're new, and a lot of hardcovers, etc."

They looked at me like I'd lost my mind. They took them, with little enthusiasm, as if I was dumping useless items. Maybe some libraries don't do this? I know they have a FoL b/c we donate to it - and have given quite a bit. IDK.

What are other ways to give away books? Admitttedly, some of mine are paperbacks I LOVE from...30 years ago. That could be a problem.

Donnaeve said...

AND...Jennifer just answered my question!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

So I moved, downsizing from a rather large townhouse to a smallish apartment. I did not downsize my books. i got rid of most of my furniture and substituted bookshelves for everything - end tables, coffee tables, side tables, all bookshelves. There are even bookshelves in the closets. And the apartment came with built in bookshelves (which is why I chose it).

In addition to new books that I seem to take on weekly, I reread books I love. For example, I am going to Writer's Digest Conference in August. Jeff Somers is sitting a panel there so I am revisiting a couple of his books. I hope We Are Not Good People is not autobiographical.

Brandon Sanderson will be releasing Oathbringer in November so I am reacquainting myself with the first two books of his Stormlight Trilogy. It's a hefty trilogy and it's been some time since the last book.

Then there are all the new books so I built my shelves higher, and lined every inch of wall space with them. I do love reading. Almost as much as I love writing. If I need to dispose of books over time, to the library I will go.

Robert Ceres said...

I love books. I love their hand, I love their smell, I love the turn of the pages. But they do become a problem. I too like friends of the library.
Around here (Central PA) we have one of the largest American Association of University Women (AAUW) book sales annually. Worth a trip to State College if you like lots of old books and for a great cause.
Last but not least, we have a vibrant local "free release" program. I love this concept. All over town are special mail boxes where you can drop one off, or pick one up. Never know what you might find in there.
Don't forget that book donations can be a tax write off if you itemize.

Susan said...

I keep a tight rein on finances out of necessity, but a few years ago, my parents and I started going to book sales across my county. Like most of us, perusing bookstores and buying books is one of my true joys, and these book sales have let me find pleasure in it again--especially when I can find new releases and hidden gems for as little as $1.

My favorite find was a hardback with dust cover from one of my favorite authors, Betty Smith (of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn fame). I'm still looking for her elusive second book, Tomorrow Will Be Better, but the hunt is part of the fun.

To say I'm grateful for libraries and book sales is an understatement. They let me find escapes and share the joy with my parents, who are also avid readers. Even on the author end, I'm all for this, as I just want my books shared and read however that may happen. I think that's the true joy in books--they help us discover and share worlds.

Robert: I live in South-Central PA and went to school in Lock Haven! Small world!

Grace Wen said...

Our local FoL has a bookshop that is open 5 days a week (I volunteer there). We sell most donations throught our shop, but we also have contacts with rare book dealers and an eBay shop if we receive rare/collectible books. We also have contacts with veterans' organizations, nursing homes, youth organizations, and other groups who've asked for books that are a bit too well-loved to be sold in the shop. Some teachers buy bagfuls of books from us and give them to their students. The FoL prices make that possible.

The money we raise goes to special programs, such as our free book program and summer reading program, equipment, materials, whatever the library needs.

Thank you for the FoL shout-out!

Peter Taylor said...

Give them to a women's refuge shelter.

Give them to an organisation that looks after refugees.

Give them to your local St.Vincent de Paul group that supports people of every faith and no faith at all--people who struggle to put food on the table to the extent that they are never going to buy a book for themselves or their children, or buy a lawn mower or... (Best to drop off books at your local Catholic Church which will probably organise a group of volunteers who are not all Catholic and who visit such people ...rather than at a charity shop where rich people can pick up a bargain, though the profits from those stores are used for good purposes--you can't pay for food with a book.)

Offer a suitable book to any homeless person you see.

Yep, love book exchange boxes, too, Robert.

Our University has a sale of book donations each year to support charities--even ancient out of date textbooks are popular: students buy them to scan the diagrams.

Robert Ceres said...

One last thought for keeping books and going with E. M.'s idea of wall to wall, floor to ceiling book shelves; this does wonderful things for improving (damping down) room acoustics. It is one of the reasons that libraries are so quiet.

Peter Taylor said...

Or you could create a book sculpture as Mike Stilkey produces--put his name in a Google image search and scroll down. You'll even find some shark installations, hee, hee.

Mark Thurber said...

These are all great suggestions. Somehow I didn't even know about Friends of the Library, and I looked it up, and of course they have a book donation box in our local branch. That's where any shelf overflow will go -- once I can bring myself to part with it, of course.

Earlier this year I went on a work trip to Stockholm, and I stayed at a hotel that had been recommended by a colleague (the Mornington Hotel Stockholm City). It is now my favorite hotel anywhere, because the theme was books. The walls of the lobby restaurant were lined with books (which did, I believe, have a salutary effect on the acoustics). So were the walls of my room. They were good books too. Many of them were in Swedish, which didn't help me much, but there were plenty in English to choose from as well. I ended up reading through an autobiography of Charlie Chaplin, which was fascinating. A server at the restaurant told me that the city library helps curate their collection.

Woohoo, libraries!

CynthiaMc said...

We inherited a lot of books from my mother-in-law, who also inherited a ton from her deceased parents and her deceased mother-in-law. A lot of them are still sitting in our garage. Don't do this to people, especially those you love. It's wrenching going through them. They are way outdated, in poor condition (due to age) and reflect their interests, not ours. Experiencing thus has made me a lot more selective about what I keep. At best, it'll make a move to my future beach house a smooth one. At worst, it'll keep my hubby and kids from going through what we're going through now.

I send my books to a veteran's organization. Added bonus - they pick up.

When my mother-in-law was alive, we would bring books for the dialysis center. They had a swap shelf and all the patients enjoyed it.

Goodwill is a great place to try new authors and the proceeds go to a good cause.

Happy Weekend Eve, everyone!

Craig F said...

OP: You are a writer, use your imagination but keep in mind that literacy is still a problem in this world. Help with that if you can, sometimes all it takes is one book to open those beautifully strange worlds for a new reader.

There is also the possibility of finding gems that are worth a re-read when you dig through the glorious disorganization that books always seem to become in my house.

It is nice to see that my continual hammering of venery terms has finally sunken in some. An exaltation of readers, I want one.

Hope y'all have a marvelous weekend.

C. L. McCollum said...

I don't know specific links to give, but I have heard recently that donating to prison libraries makes a HUGE impact on the inmates' mental & emotional well being. That might be something for you to look into!

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

One place I have wondered whether I could send used books to is the prison system.

RosannaM said...

This was such a treat to wake up to. Both the OP question, Janet's answer and then all the comments of great places to donate to. It made me feel immersed in books and that is a lovely way to feel.

Does anyone else's neighborhoods have the little boxes that are a place for you to 'take one, leave one'? They usually have a dozen or so books in them, with a Plexiglass front. I stumbled upon one when traveling just after I had finished all the reading material I had brought with me. It made my day.

Susan, I can think of no finer way to spend time with a parent than wandering bookstores! Good luck with your search.

Mark Thurber said...

I love the idea of donating to prison libraries too!

(On a side note, this reminds me of a sillier housecleaning problem, which is what to do with old trophies from kids' activities. In case anyone wants to see some inspired re-purposing, here are descriptions of the artwork to which my mom donated the trophies my brothers and I acquired through victory or participation: Jean Shin, Everyday Monuments & NYT article about Everyday Monuments.)

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grace Wen said...

@RosannaM: Little Free Libraries! I adore those. This site is great for finding ones near you: https://littlefreelibrary.org/

Peggy Larkin said...

OP, I've seen lots of suggestions for donation that are excellent (Friends of the Library, nursing homes, hospitals) and would like to add one more: there might be a local high school that would be delighted to give those books to kids who don't have/can't afford books of their own!

I teach English in a high-poverty charter school that doesn't yet have a school library (long story; short version: our school's founder saw it as a waste of money (?????) so we English teachers have classroom library collections, and we are luckily close enough to walk to our local public library from time to time). Over the last two years, our Student Council has been working to establish a library--the kids have negotiated space in the building (former computer lab, because now we have chromebooks for each student) and have been collecting donations.

However, most of the books they've been given are old and in poor condition.

This will by my 12th year working at the school, and over that time I've donated literally thousands of my own books, including pillaging my parents' and friends' collections any time they were ready to get rid of books, collecting suitcases full of ARCs at teaching conventions, and passing on my own purchases. I've also gotten grants and donations from Friends of the Library (an excellent organization!) from what's left after their sales. Every year my collection dwindles, since I loan them out freely and I always figure that if a kid wanders off with one of my books, that's OK with me, because now that kid owns another book, which is a good thing!

I know there are schools in similar straits all over the US - urban and rural - whose libraries could benefit from an infusion of new YA lit. Consider contacting the school office near you to see if there's a librarian/media specialist/English teacher who can place to books with eager readers who don't yet have a book budget. That won't harm sales - it will grow the writer's base and encourage teens to be readers, meaning that when they're on their own they might go buy that writer's next book!

Colin Smith said...

Cynthia: That's a very valid point--what I consider a legacy and an inheritance might end up being a burden. Maybe it's wishful thinking that between my six kids the books will find good homes, or prove to be useful and valuable. I like to hold out that hope. I'm fairly certain SecondBorn will lay claim to my history and language books. First and FourthBorn might fight over the novels. ThirdBorn might take the theology and philosophy. SixthBorn may end up with the music. But you never know. They may all end up in someone's garage. I hope not.

stacy said...

What a wonderful post! I hadn't even heard of Friends of the Library, so I googled it, and Columbus has a whole FoL store. You can become a member. Woo hoo!

Dani Nosek said...

I had never thought about books for acoustics and I love the idea. Noted for when I can be in my own home again.

We have a "library" on the ship which is two full-to-the-brim bookshelves in our multipurpose room. On top of that, most of the females will leaves books they recently read in our berthing lounge for someone else to enjoy. It's really nice. I find quite a few new books that I've been dying to read in either of those two places. I always want to donate my own books there, but I love them too much so I end up stashing them in my locker.

Colin Smith said...

Peggy: Converting the old computer lab into a physical library? How deliciously ironic! Love it. :D

(That is an appropriate use of "ironic" isn't it? Or have I committed a Morissette?)

Peggy Larkin said...

Cecelia Ortiz Luna and Mark Thurber, I didn't see your comments until after my treatise on donating to public schools, but I've heard very good things about the organization Pages to Prisoners (my local branch's website is here: Midwest Pages to Prisoners).

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

RosannaM: I think those are typically called "Little Free Libraries". My library has considered doing them about town, but haven't gotten it off the ground yet. Also, my cousin in Baltimore has one in his front yard, made from an old, sturdy metal fireaxe box (or the like).

Peggy Larkin said...

Last comment of the day, I promise, but my pedantic pride won't let me ignore a direct appeal: Colin, you are correct: that is ironic. You have not Morrissetted!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

RosannaM and Grace: There are Little Free Libraries just a couple blocks on either side of my home. I hadn't realized there was a site with addresses.

Due to my income, I prefer to read through the little libraries or the local library. When I trade the free library books with a friend, I have more to donate back. I've also given books to the local second hand stores.

Dena Pawling said...


I donate mine to Friends of the Library. The problem with doing that is I walk out of the building with more books than I dropped off. This does NOT have the effect of clearing out more room in my TBR pile.

CynthiaMc said...

Colin - I hope not too. Sounds like you have a ready place for yours.

Mark Thurber said...

Peggy, thanks for the fabulous suggestions, including the Pages to Prisoners tip! I love the idea of donating books to schools--and of schools passing them on to kids. Kids in the public school system here in San Jose come from a wide diversity of backgrounds and socioeconomic levels, and I suspect there is significant variation too in the resources of the various schools. My own kids' schools are relatively well-situated, but even they seem to be cash-strapped when it comes to things like this. Your suggestion is particularly applicable given that my growing home library leans heavily toward YA (and, recently, YA with non-white protagonists).

(And Morrisetted--hah! As an Alanis fan, I approve of the verbing!)

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

All great suggestions. I recently attended our local FoL sale. Came home with several bags of terrific finds.

Colin ... We are kindred spirits (although, I imagine most of us here are kindred spirits in one way or another when it comes to the written word). It is very, very rare that I part with books.

I do, however, freely part with copies of my own titles. Just recently I was on the road, traveling three states away to care for a family member. I pulled into a fast food joint in Alabama for a cup of coffee. The young gal at the window looked down at the logo on my truck (a rearing horse and the name of our sanctuary). She gasped, then asked if I wrote the books about Proud Spirit. I answered in the affirmative. She went on to say that she'd read the first title and was saving up to buy the second. There was a line behind me, I couldn't really chat with her, but I circled back around through the line to hand her a signed copy of that second title. (I always keep books in my truck). Fun stuff...

stacy said...

Melanie, that's wonderful.

Gigi said...

You can also donate to prisons, which seems like a lovely way to spread literacy, empathy, and give someone something nice to escape into during a prison sentence.

Claire Bobrow said...

We donate to the FoL sales, and have a Little Free Library nearby. Donating to prisons never occurred to me, but sounds like a great idea.

Brother Muzone. The Wire. That sign from the universe is labeled "Acme Products" and it's gonna explode soon if I don't sit down and watch the series.

french sojourn said...


Melanie, your story made my day, thanks. Say hi to Pearl for me.

Cheers Hank.

Colin Smith said...

Melanie: :D I daresay I'll be the same way with my own books. Hopefully, one day soon, we'll find out... :)

Karen McCoy said...

I'm so glad you mentioned the Friends too. As you mentioned, a big portion of library programs get their support from Friends' funds. For example, my local library has a program that gives free lunches to low income families.

And also having read WE ARE NOT GOOD PEOPLE, I'm hoping none of it is autobiographical.

Karen McCoy said...

And yes, prisons are good places to donate to also. Especially Youth Detention Centers; their libraries get almost no government funding. Make sure your donations are paperback only, and advance reader copies are okay too.

BJ Muntain said...

Oh man. This post really triggered my political anger - I just wrote a huuuge essay on our current provincial politics and libraries and such, but don't worry. You won't see it.

I look forward to the day when hospital associations and library associations won't have to raise their own money to keep themselves going. Where a children's hospital doesn't need private funds to be built, and libraries aren't reliant on private funds to operate. Where sports franchises aren't given millions of public dollars to build a new stadium, while services to poor and rural people are cut.

Until then, do support your library system, your health system, your local arts groups, the poor of your community, because they'll only suffer without you. Give your books to the poor or the sick, or to organizations that are truly necessary to serve people, so they can be sold for much-needed cash.

Also: Please, please, PLEASE try to get the word out there that libraries are NOT useless, they are NOT obsolete, and people DO use them. For some reason, many people (including politicians) think that the internet can replace libraries. Do whatever you can to refute that myth. Please.

As Janet says, libraries are needed for true democracy. They build equality among people, especially the equal opportunity for education. And they provide so much help for literacy and other needed areas that defunding them is a crime against the people.

*jumps off soapbox before adding more to an already overlong post*

Lennon Faris said...

For some reason I just love this post more than any other.

Melanie, I love stories like that.

Lennon Faris said...

Also, EM - that sounds like my dream apartment!!

The Sleepy One said...

For children's books, I like to donate mine to the Children's Book Bank. Every child in Headstart in Portland, Oregon, receives a backpack of 17 books from the book bank each school year to create a home library. They accept used books.

Women's shelters sometimes want books, too.

Theresa said...

I'm glad to know the details of the Friends. Thanks to Janet and everyone else for clarifying the difference between donating directly to the library and to the Friends of the Library. I'm at the public library at least once a week. At a few weeks old, my son was snug in his stroller for his first trip there. It's the first place I look for in a new community.

Julie said...

Janet: THANK YOU for this! I have this very problem.

BJ: Ditto. Libraries are so important, and the "libraries are dying" myth just needs to be quashed.

My own library is a little choosy about what it accepts, but reading this, I think I might just have a little "book sale" out front or something. Wish I could just *poof!* the little dears into good homes.

Thanks again, Shark Queen!

-Nemo

roadkills-r-us said...

I see no problem here other than making the time to cull the books. I do that every so often, which is why I already know places to send them. Some libraries give the books they can't use to an FoL group, or they just sell them along with books they no longer want to shelve. Ask your library what they like to do. We have bought at least a half ton of used books over the years (never mind new books), and a decent percentage were from library or FoL sales.
I've also been known to put together a box or two of similar books (technical, fantasy whatever), and just post on usenet or CraigsList: "Free books of (give a couple of examples) in good shape. First come, first serve. . If you want to see if they're here before you leave, call MMM.NNN.OOOO but I will not hold them. First come, first serve." They're always gone within an hour.
Sometimes I'll take some to Half Price Books. I buy from them, so I might as well sell to them. I don't make much (maybe 1/0th the initial price, at best), but I get enough value from what I buy that it's worth helping keep them stocked for others.
We currently have around 2,000 books (including a couple of hundred skinny books for kids). I probably need to get rid of between 200 and 400.

Barbara said...

Just coming out of lurkdom to agree about the library card. Just my opinion, but it's the most valuable piece of paper, or plastic, nowadays, that you can own. And generally, it's free.

And as Janet said, free access to a wealth of knowledge can help anyone rise in this world. One of the best ideas we humans ever came up with.