10 Ways to Use Books Donated to the Library

Some years are better than others for donations, but every year our library has at least one fairly large book donation from a family attending our school or sometimes a member of the community.  I always make known that we use books not ONLY in the library, but wherever we find the best fit for the books we receive.  With that said, donations are ALWAYS welcome because I assure you, we can find a place for them.  If you say NO to someone wanting to donate books to the library, chances are...they will find another location for their NEXT donation.  With that said, if you're in the library business, you also know that you cannot use EVERY donated book on your bookshelves.  If you DON'T work in the library business, you might say...why not??  Well, there are several reasons.  If you haven't noticed, the majority of library books are library bound.  This means they're bound more durably than your typical hardback book...bound to STAY bound through many check outs and through many little hands.  Sometimes donated books just will not last when put to the test of regular usage in the library.  Libraries also have to make sure material isn't dated.  Libraries try to keep the most current information possible.  Adding too many outdated items can bring down the overall collection age of the library.  And finally, some books are simply not appropriate for the library receiving the donation...I'm not saying we should sensor material, but by all means, books containing adult content are not appropriate for an elementary school.  I know there are all KINDS of variations to these rules, these are just a few examples.  Now...on to how we CAN use book donations EVEN IF the books aren't necessarily something we would put on our shelves for daily check out to our patrons.

Use those donated books LIKE THIS:

1.  Put them on the shelves!  By all means, if you receive a book appropriate for your patrons and it's hardback or sturdy enough to withstand loving from multiple readers for a while...add it to your collection!  There's nothing better than new books available for check out.
2.  Create a discarded/free book box.  My students LOVE the discarded book box.  This is the first stop for almost every student as they visit the library...are there new books in the book box?  I created labels for my discarded books AND I mark them clearly with black Sharpie, "DISCARDED", so parents know these are books that do not need to be returned.  Sometimes I have books donated that are in poor condition, but still readable so I'll place them here...any books we can get in the hands of readers is a plus!  You can find my discarded book labels FREE FOR DOWNLOAD here.  These are set up for printing on Avery label #5164 or something equivalent (3 1/3"x4").
3.  Create study sets.  Sometimes I have nonfiction titles, biographies or historical fiction that would be GREAT for student use except they're paperback.  In that case, I start grouping them for sets - Landforms, Famous African Americans, Solar System, etc.  Once I have a group of 5-10 books, I create sets in magazine files or book boxes.  I then create ONE bar card for the entire box and make the box available for teacher check out for use in the classroom.  Teachers LOVE the book boxes for units and special topics of study.  These are my favorite book boxes:  Ikea Flyt Magazine file, Pack of 25, White.  They're inexpensive, sturdy and they ship quickly...especially if you have a Prime account.
4.  Start a paperback collection with donated paperbacks.  No, paperback books don't hold up as well, but if they're not circulating through as many hands as your typical library book, they'll last for a bit.  I've created a paperback collection for my students who have accounts on hold due to lost or damaged books.  Sometimes books NEVER get paid for, found or returned.  While we have to teach our students some level of responsibility, some students are at the mercy of their parents...books get lost in foster care, left in relative's cars, etc.  It breaks my heart when students WANT to read, but they have these books on their account that need to be taken care of ...that probably won't ever be taken care of...so...while that's the case, I allow students to check out books from the paperback section only.  This means they are somewhat restricted until the lost or damaged book is accounted for, but we can still get books in their hands while we wait.
5.  Give back to the classrooms.  Whether you're a school librarian or public librarian, there are ALWAYS classroom teachers looking to build their collection.  Books tend to last a bit longer in the classroom where they're going through 20 some odd hands rather than hundreds.  Put them in the teacher workroom and I guarantee you, they'll get snatched up...if it's something the library can't use, chances are...a classroom teacher CAN.  There are always new teachers and teachers switching grade levels or subject areas looking to build their classroom libraries.
6.  Donate them to organizations who CAN use them.  The list is ongoing...nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, doctor's offices, homes for underprivileged or neglected children...someone will be willing to take those books off your hands.  If you can't use them, donate them to other organizations who CAN use them.
7.  Take them to a used bookstore.  If you have a large donation of books that are outside of your interest level or books you cannot use, take them to a used book store where you can sell them and purchase books you CAN use.  I recently received a large donation from a family...boxes and boxes of books.  The problem was, the books were all adult fiction paperbacks...but in the end, it really wasn't a problem.  I loaded up the boxes and took them to our local 2nd and Charles where I could purchase books our students would read.  I still had boxes left and those were donated to an area nursing home.
8.  Tear them apart and use what you can!  If you have a book that is falling apart or dated, but it does have some pages of worth...a time line you can use, a chart for student use, etc...pull out the pages you can use, laminate them and begin a file with resources for students or patrons to use while researching.  Students love our library's fact files...and often times they'll learn something they weren't even looking for...so it's a win/win!  You can also use these book sections or pull outs in the project boxes mentioned in number 3 above.  Anytime you can incorporate nonfiction, do it!
9.  If you have a growing collection of books just sitting there collecting dust, have a used book sale.  This is going to look different in a public library vs. a school library, but it's very doable in all libraries.  For a school library, it's fun to encourage students to bring their used books...collect books for a week...then have a school wide swap/sale.  My favorite way to do this is to give students a coupon good for one book at the book swap for every TWO books they donate.  Students can purchase books with their book coupons OR with money for those who have no books to donate.  I find 50 cents for paperbacks and $1 for hardbacks is a fair price that most students can afford.  Students get "new to them" books and the library is making a profit as well.  Score!
10.  Give them to students who might not have books at home.  Once a month, I go through the books I've collected that are just sitting on my counters and give them back to students who need them.  We're a fairly large school, so I pick one grade level a month and give each classroom in that grade level one book.  I include a note to the teacher asking him/her to pick a student who might benefit from this book and include a "Book Fairy" note for teachers to give with the book.  Depending on how many books you have available, you could do this many different ways, this is just what works for me.  I've included my favorite free book fairy labels and teacher notes in the section below - enjoy!

Do you have other ideas for donated books?  Please share them!  The more we share, the more we learn...Keep Reading!  RR

FREE PRINTABLES from this Post
*Discarded book labels
*Book Fairy Note to Classroom Teachers
*Book Fairy Note for Students (FREE from TeachersPayTeachers)

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