Who needs books?
April 26, 2020 11:18 PM   Subscribe

My mother was a voracious reader. She passed away in 2018 but left a library of thousands of books; mysteries, science fiction, finance, health & fitness, etc., all in excellent condition. I found a note that she wrote that makes me think that she may have wanted to donate them to a library.

I've called several public libraries but they don't seem to take donations. I have heard of communities trying to start up new libraries or rebuild after fires or floods. Is there a list of these libraries that I can look at and maybe pick one that might want her books?
posted by CollectiveMind to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The ALA has a page of many different organizations that collect donated books for use internationally. Most places will take them at no cost to the donor if you can get the books to their US site. They note that it is important to contact the group ahead of time to make sure that the donation is wanted.
posted by metahawk at 11:26 PM on April 26, 2020 [5 favorites]

Another option, depending on what the books are, is to donate them to a charity that sends books to people in prison. I'm not American so I don't have specific recs, but Google should at least be able to give you a jumping off point.
posted by Tamanna at 12:11 AM on April 27, 2020 [11 favorites]

My local library system has a store attached manned by volunteers where books that are donated are sold to the community for mostly a buck or two, or given away free, depending on condition. It's a well used resource. It also looks like they incorporate some donations into their collection.

I believe the Los Angeles library system has similar used book stores.

I don't know if they'd accept estate-sized books donations and I'm not saying you should necessarily donate to my local libraries. But don't give up on the idea of donating to a library! Some do take donations!

(Also the librarians here are a friendly bunch; it couldn't hurt to contact them and ask for advice. I believe they are still responding to phone calls during the virus shutdown.)
posted by bertran at 12:27 AM on April 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

The current situation makes everything more difficult, of course, but I think that with a large, varied collection of excellent-condition books, it would be really cool if your mother's personal library allowed a local youth center, community center, women's shelter, etc., to create its own library. A new library made possible by your bibliophile mom's generosity is a nice legacy.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:05 AM on April 27, 2020 [19 favorites]

This may not be a possibility for you, but a Little Free Library could be fantastic. They are often very beloved, well used community fixtures.
posted by MeadowlarkMaude at 3:57 AM on April 27, 2020 [5 favorites]

donate them to a charity that sends books to people in prison.

I do know of one such place - Books Through Bars. They're based in New York, but they work with prisons across the country. They do have a somewhat strict set of guidelines for books they will accept, however, but they may also be able to suggest another place you could donate.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:16 AM on April 27, 2020 [5 favorites]

Most libraries don't accept donations like that for their collections, but libraries that have used book sales as fundraisers are very common. Book Sale Finder is a site that lists book sales (my library gets a ton of business by advertising our book sale there); you can find one close to you that has a sale and offer your donation.

I'm the one who does pickups of large donations, and I can tell you that if you box them up, we can bring as many volunteers and cars as needed to carry them all away, and we would be VERY grateful. We raise a lot of money for the library this way, and it's a wonderful community builder, too.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:46 AM on April 27, 2020 [7 favorites]

I'm sorry for your loss.

Chicago's Books to Women in Prison and Liberation Library also take donations when not under COVID19 lockdown. But, they definitely want specific items and a few specific categories. It will wind up costing them more in time and effort than it's worth if you try to send them everything.

(Recognizing that destroying a copy of a book doesn't mean the book no longer exists in the world - except in quite unusual circumstances - has been a useful mantra for me when book stores tell me not to even bother with throwing stuff in the free bucket next to the door.)
posted by eotvos at 6:58 AM on April 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

> finance, health & fitness

These categories don't age well; you might want to just toss them, and concentrate on the others.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:06 AM on April 27, 2020 [7 favorites]

We used to have a local group called the Bookman that started out taking used books to prisons and schools and eventually expanded to include homeless shelters and offshore donations. Volunteers would sort the books, sell anything with collector value (to fund the operation), and then distribute the rest. I knew several people involved in the sorting and they would sometimes get a whole estate's worth of books donated, or get called to pick up leftovers after a yard sale.

Though the organization closed several years ago when the founders retired, I'm sure there are others doing similar work.
posted by buildmyworld at 8:14 AM on April 27, 2020

If you're up for making some phone calls, most assisted living facilities have some sort of library for residents - I'd imagine one in your area would be interested. They will not be taking donations at this time, but if you're not in a hurry to get them off your hands, that could be a good place.
posted by hydra77 at 8:43 AM on April 27, 2020

Response by poster: Thank you for the suggestions.
posted by CollectiveMind at 9:56 AM on April 27, 2020

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