Friday, October 07, 2005

How Libraries Deal with Donated Books

Marilyn Oorbeck of the Riverside (Illinois) Public Library recently polled the readers of RefList (a listserv for reference librarians, mostly in the Metropolitan Library System) about their procedures and policies regarding donated materials. She thoughtfully reported her summary on reflist and gave me permission to pass along to other readers. I particularly like her last paragraph.

Hello Everyone,

I received 11 responses concerning my posting [on reflist] about donations and library booksale procedures.

Here is a summary of the responses:

At 4 libraries Friends of the Library volunteers sort the donations, manage and run book sales and/or Friends stores.

One Library is in a state of transition because the Friends Book Sale coordinator will be stepping down after managing the book sale for 20 years.

Several libraries have one big book sale a year, with a smaller ongoing sale. The ongoing sales are usually managed by library staff.

At one library a large annual sale is not possible due to lack of storage space.

Of the libraries in which staff (not volunteers) manage donations, usually the Technical Services Manager, or T.S. staff, sort the donations. Sometimes the Reference Librarians manage donations. In one library the administrative secretary sorts through the donations.

The person(s) who triage the donations separate them into: discards, possible additions to the collection, and book sale items.

Often the Technical Services staff (or Friends volunteers) will alert selectors to the arrival of choice items. It is the responsibility of selectors or managers to look over the donations at least once a week to claim items for the collection.

Either a staff member or volunteer decides which items are saved for the annual book sale and which are immediately added to the ongoing sale.

One library keeps its ongoing book sale fresh by tagging items and removing them if they have not sold after a couple of months.

The consensus from the group about the possibility of adding items of marginal value that would only have to be weeded sooner rather than later was: don't worry about it. Selecting materials is an art. We all make miscalculations. If an added item needs to be weeded - it's ok.

Donated copies are often used to replace fiction or nonfiction classics in poor condition. If space is available items can be saved for future addition to the collection.

Several librarians commented that while most donations are not added to the collection, the time and effort necessary to manage donations is worth it. All of our collections have been enriched by our patrons' generosity.

Thank you for emailing me your responses. It was very helpful.

Marilyn Oorbeck, Adult Services Manager
Riverside Public Library, Illinois

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