Therefore, I've compiled a list of tips that can help you have a better donating experience. And I've also included a starters list of resources for worthy causes and locations that will always be happy to accept donations from you!
1. Do Your Research
You'll get the most bang out of your, er, donation if you donate to a place that badly needs it. Check out the public libraries or schools in your area. How is their collection? What is the ratio of new releases to older books? If your library seems to get those highly anticipated new releases practically before you even see them in bookstores, then they probably don't need donations as much as others do. My hometown library, for example, has an incredible teen section and a "New Releases" bookshelf that's constantly being replenished. On the other hand, the public library in my college town seems to only be able to buy 5-10 new hardcovers each season. (I may be wrong on this, but that's just what it feels like to me.) If I donate to my college town's library, my donation is "worth" more, in that it'll go into the system as one of only a handful of copies of that particular book available in our network. If I donate to my hometown's library, I'd probably find it in their monthly book sale.
Do you live in or know a state that has recently faced a library budget cut? Chances are that if you're an avid book lover, peruser of book-related sites, and library user, you'll know if your library budget is in jeopardy. I go to school in Pennsylvania, and last fall our state cut over 30% of the public libraries' budgets. The Free Library of Philadelphia network, which consisted over over 40 branches, was thisclose to having to close down completely due to lack of funding. Horrifying. Unfortunately this situation is becoming more and more common, and these states would gladly take your donations for their collections. More on this later.
Once I realized that my local library could benefit greatly from my donations, I talked to their full-time, paid librarian about the possibility of me donating books for their children's and teen collection. Don't start blabbering about donating to the volunteers who man the checkout counter: they usually don't know what to do with you, and will A) either direct you to the full-time, paid librarian you were supposed to talk to in the first place, or B) tell you about them accepting donations for their book sale, WHICH IS NOT WHAT YOU WANT. (On the other hand, if you don't know who the teen/acquisitions librarian is, I'm sure the volunteers do.)
Don't come in with a boxful of donations at the very first meeting: get to know that librarian first. If you have the time, establish a relationship. Let him/her know that you are a book blogger and often receive finished copies of new releases to review, and are wondering if you'd be able to donate those books to the library's collection once you have reviewed them. They'll usually fall over you, and even if they don't really get the importance of the blogger in the way that many publishers do, they will be sure to ask about your blog and whatnot. If you have a business card, give it to the librarian. Show him/her that you are a frequent visitor and/or someone who's actively involved in the book industry. (Which, as a blogger, you are!) Once they know that you're not just someone looking to dump a half-dozen boxes of moldy, outdated books on their doorstep, they'd be happy to consider your donation.
3. When donating, give the books directly to the children's/teen/acquisitions librarian.
This is similar to Number 2. Don't just leave the books with volunteers, who will more likely than not just point you to the big box labeled "Donations for Book Sale" that's by the desk or door or whatever. Introduce yourself politely again, remind the librarian who you are and what your purpose with the books are, and either hand the books to them (and watch them fawn over the new releases of the books they had been forced to pass up at the last ordering they made due to budget restrictions) or place them where they ask you to place them, which is usually somewhere in their office.
PLEASE NOTE: ARCs are not meant to be donated to public libraries! You're not supposed to do that. A private, nonprofit, or teacher's classroom library is a different story, of course.
4. The Goldilocks rule.
I wouldn't recommend sending them 12 boxes stuffed full of books all at once: librarians are human too, and they need time to look over the books and see whether they're appropriate for the collection! At the same time, don't come in once a week with just one book to donate. I would find that irritating if I were a librarian, no matter how grateful I'd be to have the book. The past two times I've donated, I've come in with about 7-10 books, which seems like a manageable but impressive lump amount. I'm hoping to make my donations more of a regular affair, coming in perhaps once every 4-6 weeks with a new batch of books for their collection.
I strongly suggest asking your librarians if they're interested in receiving books that were first published over 1.5-2 years ago. Librarians are just like us in that new, shiny stuff attracts them more than oldies but goodies. There was a reason they passed on ordering those books when they first came out. Remember: librarians have the right to put your donations into their book sale, so if you want to minimize that occurrence, check beforehand to see if there's a "limit" as to the publication year they'd accept to improve their collection. (Or do any librarian bloggers reading this know? I'd be supremely grateful if you could answer this question!)
6. Check when your books have been entered into the system.
This is obviously to save you a lot of grief. You don't want to have been donating for half a year only to suddenly find out that 90% of your brand new hardcover new releasees donations haven't been making it onto the shelves! That was the main reason why I waited so long between my first and second donations. The first batch took soooo long to process that I was worried they wouldn't accept all my beautiful books! The second batch was entered a lot more quickly: within a week I found them in the online catalog and on the shelves. (I still haven't seen many books from my first donation on the actual shelves themselves--that's because they're always checked out!) It's okay to feel secretly proud and a little possessive of the books you donated: that's human. Who doesn't want their gifts to be appreciated? Figuring out your library's processing time will make it a less nerve-wracking (will they like my books, or will they put it up for sale? *bites nails*) experience and more fun for everyone!
You seriously don't need to keep every book that you receive. Yes, not even the ones that have been signed (especially if you got a much cooler and PERSONALIZED book from that particular author afterwards!). They do no good to languish, untouched, on your own bookshelf: they're much better off being loved by others. If you can make donating a regular event--monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, whatever works best for you!--I guarantee that you'll feel like you're doing something great for the world.
Cool Places/Causes to Donate To
If you live in a region that already has a good public library system, or you'd like to extend your philanthropic hand out a bit further, below are just a few places to get you started.
Maureen Johnson and the Harry Potter Alliance's Accio Books Contest
Superstar author Maureen Johnson is heading up HPA's Ravenclaw house in this year's competition: donate books to the Mississippi Delta! Unlike local public libraries, you can donate ANYTHING (well, any books, of course) to this cause... and you might even get some pretty sweet prizes out of it. Want a signed copy of Maureen's books, a rare galley of upcoming Last Little Blue Envelope (um, *WANTS*), your name in the acknowledgments page of TLLBE, or even a character named after you in her new paranormal crime series?? Yeah, I thought so. And trust me, you can easily find 100 books to donate. But you have to hurry: all donations must be postmarked/donated/tallied up by March 31! Check out Maureen's blog post for more information.
Incredible philanthropist-blogger Harmony (of Harmony Book Reviews) started this program last year to support our poor struggling PA libraries. *sniff* To give you an example of your ability to donate: Harmony (not her real name, which is reallyreally cool) donates pretty much every single book she buys, receives, and reads to her local library. Can we say COOL and WOW? Bring YA2PA holds semi-annual auctions of signed books, critiques, etc. to raise money for the cause, and they are currently planning a large YA author event in Philadelphia, hopefully before I graduate. (And writing about this now is making me feel lame because I should help them out more, instead of simply writing about them.) They're always happy and willing to accept donations to the several libraries whose wishlists are posted on their website. Check out Bring YA2PA if you'd like to help this cause out!
This is a blog/program promoting books featuring POC (people of color) and just good books in general to communities that need them, run by a blogger by the name of Susan. I've known Susan and followed her blog for over a year now, and I've donated to Color Online before. How great is it that Susan is making a concerted effort to put more books into the hands of others by offering what's virtually a "mailing library"? They could always use book or monetary donations. Check out Color Online's Book Loans page for more information!
The Reading Room in Brunei Darussalam
If you've got some money to spare, or are looking to do something REALLY special, there's this awesome guy I know who goes by Mr. Jason, who teaches teen girls at a school in Brunei Darussalam, which is a teeny-tiny country in Oceania, near New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and those island nations. Check out Mr. Jason's blog or his BookMooch Charity page to get a sense for how special his program is, how absolutely enthusiastic about reading his students are, and how grateful and excited they are to receive new books. Shipping to Brunei does tend to run high (as I learned the hard way), but post offices sell a flat-rate box that you can just fill with books, which will actually be cheaper than finding a box of your own and mailing it. Anyway, they really are a great bunch of people who would love to take donations. Check them out if you can!
Got any suggestions for me to add to the above list? Questions? Comments? Librarians, advice you'd like to add? I know this post only covers the basics, and teachers might be sad that I didn't mention school libraries as much. But seriously, everyone, there are countless places that would be thrilled to accept your donations. Your unwanted books don't need to end up in Goodwill, or the local used bookstore, or on PaperbackSwap! Consider donating to your local library, or one of these causes, or elsewhere. It'll make a lot of people, most of all you. :)
Questions for Librarians
Below are some questions that I'd be grateful if librarian-bloggers reading this post out thre could answer. Thanks a bunch! Feel free to add anything else you think I and readers would benefit from knowing.
- Will libraries accept donations of "backlisted" titles--books that have been out already for over a year?
- Would librarians appreciate/prefer a copy of your review along with your donated book?
- What are libraries' policies on the condition of books they'd accept into their collection?
- What goes into the procedure of processing books into the system?
- Any other way we can make the relationship between librarian and blogger more helpful to both?