The Library (Usually) Doesn’t Want Your Used Books

The Library (Usually) Doesn’t Want Your Used Books

So you’ve got a lot of books on your hands, and you’re not sure what to do with them. Maybe it’s because they aren’t books that interest you, or perhaps you don’t have the shelf space for them; whatever the reason, you don’t want to hold onto them yourself. So what do you do with them?

Libraries operate around books. It makes sense to donate your used books to your library, right? As it turns out, there’s a decent chance the library doesn’t want your used books, and you’d be better off donating books to a business that will pay cash for books.

Space, Time, and Money Constraints

You might think that by donating used books to the library, you’re saving them time and money by giving them books to add to their collection. As it turns out, that may not be the case; in fact, it might be the opposite. Libraries take time to cultivate lists of books they want to add to their collection based on their specific needs. They have limited space to store the books they have. Your books might not be anywhere on that list. If the library can’t use them, they’ll take up shelf space that could otherwise go to more desirable books.

Donated books aren’t necessarily free books either, nor do they necessarily save librarians time. If you’ve spent time with library books, you’ve likely noticed the stickered barcodes. These barcodes help librarians keep track of books in their system and ensure that they are put in the correct place when shelved. Applying those barcodes takes time, and the supplies require money, even if it may not be much. Libraries don’t typically have a large staff, which means staff members have many responsibilities, so adding tasks for them to do isn’t exactly helpful. While the supplies may not cost much themselves, the library still has to pay the employees to do the work, which does get factored into costs. You might think that it shouldn’t make a difference if they’re getting the books for free, but consider that librarians order the books they order on purpose. Unknown titles require employees to sort through the collection to determine if they can use them or not, further taking up additional time and money.

The Quality of the Book

Then there’s the quality of the books themselves. When libraries purchase books from vendors, they expect to receive the books in mint condition. The pages aren’t ripped or dog eared. The corners are sharp. The dust jackets are clean and free of stains. Libraries don’t want to deal with books that have pest damage or have been too well-loved. Even if your collection is in perfect condition, in many cases it’s easier for a library not to accept donations rather than sort through a collection to determine if the books are in good enough condition to add to the shelves.

Do Your Research

All that being said, some libraries welcome donations. Many have a collection of books available for sale, and adding books to that collection can benefit the library. If you want to donate used books to your library, make sure you do your research. Read their donation policy before showing up with your collection to get an idea of what they want and whether or not your books will be a benefit.

Alternative Options for Your Collection

If it turns out that your collection isn’t a good fit for your library, you may be able to donate your books and receive cash for your donation. This may be a better option anyway, since libraries generally don’t pay for donation.

Your library may or may not want your used book collection. If you want to donate your collection, be sure to check out any donation policies. Your best move, however, might be to sell them online. You get cash and they keep your books, making this option a win for everyone.