Are you thinking of donating to your library? Consider the following:

Recently, the above essay was published in the Globe and Mail. It resonated with our volunteers because we see this tragedy every day. It’s a fact of life.

It’s a little sad that we’ve spent so much money on our libraries, only to have them thrown away; on the other hand, it’s not the books that matter so much as the content. The most valuable stuff is already in our brains.

Do you have a personal library you’re thinking of pruning? Hold each book in your hands and consider these questions:

  • In its current condition, would you pay $3-$10 (or more) for the book?
  • Are the contents relevant to today’s reader?
  • Would it be of interest to someone who already has a library (because it’s your fellow bibliophiles who are buying most of the books)?
  • Are there already a gazillion copies available, and there’s nothing special about your copy?

The following lists outline what we do with donated books: these guidelines might help you get your books to the right place.

 Straight in the Garbage

  • Anything damaged. This includes torn covers or pages, loose spines, water damage and coffee spills.
  • Anything with black or white mildew. Smell the book to make sure there is none.
  • Anything dirty, extremely dusty or with evidence of insect activity

 Off to the Recycling Bins

  • magazines that are not collectible
  • scruffy paperbacks and soft-covers
  • scruffy fiction
  • out-of-date non-fiction (including encyclopedia sets that are not collectible)
  • culturally-inappropriate non-fiction or fiction (e.g. anything currently considered offensive to minority groups)

 To the Sale Shelves

  • regular priced:
    • clean, relevant fiction and non-fiction
    • signed by unknown or self-published author/illustrator
    • Book-of-the-Month club
  • higher priced:
    • fiction and non-fiction from the last two years
    • signed by famous author/illustrator (without an inscription to a specific person)
    • antique (WWII or earlier)
    • collectible libraries (such as Franklin)
    • boxed books (such as Folio)
    • very large coffee-table books
  • Amazon or e-Bay:
    • books worth over $40 on or
    • collectible sets
    • antique books (first editions more than 100 years old)

Are you interested in how second-hand bookshops currently work? We highly recommend Shaun Bythell’s The Diary of a Bookseller.