Let’s talk about what to do with weeded library materials. If you’ve ever heard Mary and I speak at a conference or in a webinar, you’ve heard us harp on the idea that where discards end up is as important as what actually gets discarded. We have to discard responsibly for environmental reasons, public relations reasons, and even practical workflow reasons.
I’d love to hear from you all on what you do with your discarded materials and the process that they go through to get there. Here are some ideas:
- Friends of the Library. If your library has a Friends group, they may be willing to hold a used book sale for you. My library has an ongoing book sale that is available whenever the library is open. It is stocked mostly with public donations that the library can’t use, though. We are finding that a large portion of our weeded collection materials don’t make it to the book sale because they don’t have enough space to store them. We get so many good-condition donations that precious volunteer time has to be spent moving them through the system (because you all know that much of what is donated is not re-sellable, mostly for reasons of condition and age). We just don’t have the volunteer or staff manpower, or the space, to add to the Friends book sale. What a great problem to have, right?
- Better World Books. It takes time to pre-screen your discards to see what BWB wants you to send and what they don’t, but they pay for shipping and provide the boxes. We use Better World Book’s service for a large portion of our discards. BWB re-sells the materials and sends us a commission. I’ll be honest, we only made about $200 last year, but we feel good about re-use from an environmental and public relations standpoint.
- Prisons, VA hospitals, schools. Here’s another area that takes time. Prisons will only take very specific materials. VA hospitals do not pick up materials; you have to deliver them. Schools might come and get them, but identifying schools that need the materials takes some sleuthing.
- Resale shops. Salvation Army, Goodwill, Volunteers of America, etc. will often take donated books. They can’t take everything, but they’d be thrilled with some good-shape materials in most formats. Again, this takes time to box them up and deliver them. In my neck of the woods, Purple Heart will do pick-ups, so maybe some of these other organizations will too.
- Book drives. Google around and see if any groups are doing book drives in your area.
- Little Free Libraries. Find out if any LFL’s in your area could use some good-shape book donations. We’re going to start looking into this soon. We often weed extra copies of recent bestsellers as they become less popular, so we can provide Little Free Libraries around here with some very recent bestseller books that we just don’t need as many copies of in the library anymore.
I’d love to hear where else you send your discards, and how your discard process works. Do you struggle, as we do, with the amount of time, staff/volunteers, and boxes it takes to keep these materials moving out of the library? Our library is blessed with a collection that is in very good shape, across the board. Our librarians weed regularly, and we have a healthy materials budget for replacements and new titles. That means that we move quite a lot of very good condition books out of our collection, regularly. We weed more for lack of use and duplicates than for other reason. We aren’t weeding nearly as much for condition or age because we keep up with things really well around here. This is definitely not a complaint, but it does result in a lot of near-perfect-condition discards that need to go somewhere, and the Friends can’t take them all.