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Are your bookshelves overflowing? Do you have books that you’re ready to part with? Consider donating your gently used books to your local library.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been sorting books for my local library’s semi-annual book sale. A group of volunteers meet in a bus garage and unpack box after box of used books, and sort them into stacks. It’s been hugely satisfying. I’ve met some wonderful people and learned a ton about people’s reading habits. For example, men buy hardcover thrillers and think nothing of donating them right away. I unpacked three boxes of thrillers yesterday that had all been published in the last eighteen months. I also learned that mystery readers keep their books for decades and read their books more than once. Romance readers fly through books and are very generous with their cast-offs.

If you’re thinking about donating your piles of used books, I suggest you contact your local library or charity for their specific requirements. Here are a few general guidelines:

  • Don’t donate books with water damage, torn pages, or broken spines.
  • Hardcover books need to have their dust jackets.
  • Textbooks published in the last several years are great. If you can’t sell them, donate them.
  • Trade paperbacks are very popular. People will pay a premium for them.
  • People always like the classics. Every year I meet teachers at the sale looking for books for their classrooms.
  • Some libraries also take donations of audio books, CD’s, and videos.
  • Non-fiction books are big sellers. One of the volunteers I work with spent three hours one morning arranging ten boxes of books on anthropology. Every one of those books will be sold during the sale.
  • Donate all those children’s books your kids have outgrown. They could bring joy to other children.
  • And lastly, support your local library by buying used books during their sales.