Serving the Public and Saving the Planet, One Book at a Time

Jenny Walsh relocated to Boone County from New York six years ago. A graduate of Gettysburg College, she has served as the Book Sale Room Assistant at the Main Library since 2011.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:  It’s a way of life at the library. Sure, we’re serious about minimizing waste as we go about our jobs on a daily basis. But the mantra also applies to the way we manage the books and other materials in our collection and how we fulfill our central mission of providing information and promoting literacy and learning. Whenever possible, we strive to give materials a second life after they leave our shelves.

When it comes to the collection, it’s actually more like “Renew” than “Reduce.” Multiple copies of former bestsellers, for example, are regularly taken out of circulation as their popularity wanes, supplanted by the latest in-demand releases. Nonfiction works are replaced routinely with updated editions and titles that reflect current and emerging issues and changing tastes and trends. We call this process “weeding,” a particularly fitting term if you think of the library as a garden – a place that brings delight and bears fruit only with thoughtful planning and consistent maintenance.

Here’s where the garden analogy falls apart a bit, however, because most of the books withdrawn from the collection are far from weeds. Some, admittedly, have either been too well loved or have become too outdated to pass on, and these are sent to the recycling bin (the compost heap, if you will, of the library-as-garden world). We apply the same standards to donated materials, adding some to the circulating collection and recycling others.

But the vast majority of withdrawn or donated-but-not-circulated items are in perfectly acceptable condition or better, and that’s where “Reuse” comes in. The most visible example of this reuse is our public book sales, which are held at the Main Library every April and October and at our branches at other times throughout the year (click here for the schedule).  At these sales we offer withdrawn and donated materials – adult and children’s books, books on CD, VHS tapes and DVDs – almost all at prices of $1.00 or less (magazines are free). In addition, all of our locations have book-sale shelves from which items can be purchased year-round. We can think of no better way of extending the life of books than passing them on to members of our community at such a great value!

(While we’re on the subject, you won’t want to miss our fall book sale at the Main Library. The hours are 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18th; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19th; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 20th. Sunday is Bag Day, when you can fill up a paper grocery bag (or similarly sized tote bag) with books and pay just $5! We’ve got a great selection of art books and vintage editions this time around, an abundance of titles on the subject of religion, and more mysteries than we can possibly solve by ourselves!)

A small number of withdrawn or donated books provide extra bang for the buck in terms of return on investment. These are titles with especially high resale value that we sell online in partnership with Better World Books, a so-called “triple bottom line” enterprise that incorporates social and environmental responsibility into its business model. A portion of the proceeds from every book we sell through BWB is donated to the National Center for Family Literacy, and the rest is used to purchase new books for our collection. Click here to shop our online sale at Better World Books.

Another reuse program is the Colossal Book Giveaway, a vital element in our partnership with educators in Boone County. For several years now, teachers and school librarians have been invited to build their classroom collections with free books and other materials, all in good condition. These materials have been withdrawn from BCPL’s collection because of lack of use or donated (and not suitable for the collection). After the teachers have their pick, the general public is given the opportunity to shop this special offering of children’s and teen materials.  The Colossal Book Giveaway is held when materials are available.

And there are other ways we extend the life – and thereby stretch the value — of withdrawn and donated books. Some are used as giveaways at outreach events; others are taken to homebound patrons and patients in nursing homes. Several times a year, we donate hundreds of books to the Sons of the American Revolution, which in turn distributes them to Veterans Administration hospitals around the region.

The Library is a bountiful garden, and it’s our mission to share it.



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