Donating? Remember, We Take *Almost* Everything…

Donating? Remember, We Take *Almost* Everything…

Did you know that recycling materials such as paper, plastic, and electronics are good for the environment? However, did you also know that a low percentage of those materials are actually able to be recycled? One of the reasons for that is something called “wish-cycling,” people placing something in a recycling bin because they hope that it can actually be recycled, or it looks like it should be able to be recycled.

Which brings up the donation materials we collect to be sold in the annual MRRL/ABLE used book sale each March and mini-book sales at other times of the year. The library really, really, REALLY appreciates your generosity in donating books and media. 

Up to a point.

We have a few simple guidelines for donating: No textbooks. No video cassettes. No magazines. No encyclopedias. 

And yet, we have a lot of wish-cycling that goes on, too – things that you think we might want to sell. Titles that are sentimental friends we hate to give up. Or, a library of a deceased relative that we want to do right by. 

Our ABLE volunteers are true heroes who have been through hundreds of boxes and tens of thousands of titles, discovering many items we are unable to use. Here are questions which we have not actually received, but that are implied by what we regularly come across.

“Do you take all kinds of new books?

We take books about war, religion, biographies, mystery, romance and children’s books – both fiction and nonfiction. But not this kind of book, because it is a notebook.


“I have a book on tape. It’s new! Unopened!”

We don’t keep cassettes – even if they are unopened. 


“What if I have magazines with a lot of great recipes?” 

You had us at magazines, which we don’t accept.


“What if my book has a little bit of damage?”
or the related question 
“What if I have a book that has been loved on?” 

Remember, we just sell ‘em, we don’t repair them first. (And if there are mold/mildew issues, please don’t bring them and risk damaging other books!)


“Hey, what about this book? I did a little repair work.”

Unfortunately, it was too little. A cloth cover does not make it usable and the torn spine makes it completely unusable..

At all.


“I have this medical book that still has good information.”

Would you like to find out your doctor’s medical expertise only went through 1980? We wouldn’t either. That’s why we prefer not to get older medical books and similarly obsolete texts.


“Wait a minute! Don’t you think it would be interesting to see what changes have taken place since this book was originally published?”

As a general rule, if you have a book that dates back before we had 50 states or the Korean War started, others are not interested in buying them.


“Here’s a movie that was nominated for a bunch of awards! So, is this okay?”

Even though we like Leonardo DiCaprio too, we still don’t take VHS tapes, which haven’t been produced since 2006. (But good news – Goodwill does!)


“I have a book with a little water damage. Will you take those?”

There is a difference between a few drops of liquid and a bath companion. This book, for instance, shows significant warping. Perhaps it was even abandoned on a mountain. We don’t want books with a lot of water damage, odd stains, rips, or smells, food residue or bugs, or electronic media that is severely scratched or damaged. As a rule of thumb, If you wouldn’t want a damaged book on your own shelf, don’t donate it to someone else’s.


“Okay , I know you don’t want encyclopedias. But this is a dictionary.”

This example checks off several no-no boxes. This dictionary is a quarter-century old. The spine has been completely separated, then repaired with duct tape – not considered a professional book repair product, except maybe by MacGyver. So, no. No.


“But what if my magazines have a lot of interesting stories? By well-known authors?” 

See that person over there with the recipe magazines? Go talk with them.


By one estimate, there are times where at least 30-40% of our donations are damaged, old, musty, dusty, smelly, or, that catch-all term, “gross.” (And please don’t think it is okay to leave unusable books if we didn’t see you leave them, either).  

Eliminating wish-cycling would mean so much! It helps our awesome volunteers make more efficient use of their time and space, and reduces the amount of backlog boxes in the donation area. Please don’t transfer the responsibility of throwing away or recycling books that are more of a burden than a donation. 

We love books too, but again, we want books that you would want on your own shelf. Help us bring you the very best titles at our next book sale!. 

If you would like to know more about recycling unwanted books, you can find ideas and a few more affirmations at the Book Riot site