Dear PoP – Donate Old books?

Photo by PoPville flickr user BrennaLM

“Dear PoP,

Do or your readers have any suggestions for what I can do with a ton of old books? They’re not valuable by any means — we’re talking outdated reference books and Kitty Kelley biographies. I don’t even want to dump them on Goodwill or Salvation Army because I doubt they’d even be able to sell them. I just hate to toss them in the garbage. I might try Freecycle to see if anyone wants them there, but wanted to check with you first. Are there any organizations out there that could use these books, even if just for materials?”

Does anyone know if Books for America takes donations? Oh dang, they are actually pretty selective about what they accept. The library accepts some donations as well. Where would you guys recommend items like these be donated?

33 Comment

  • If all else fails I know there’s a local artist/crafter who makes purses out of hard book covers.

  • I’ve dropped stuff at the Petworth library before, and they took it.

  • I put 45 books in a box on my front steps with a FREE sign, all but four were taken.

    Good Luck.

  • It’s a bit of a hike, but the bookthing ( in baltimore is basically a used bookstore where you drop off your old books and can pick up other people’s castoffs. really great organization and idea. Imagine barnes and noble but FREE.

  • When my friends moved from Philly to the west coast they donated a whole bunch of books to a local prison library. I thought that was such a great idea. I would definitely do that.

  • There used to be a book-donation drop box at the Social Safeway. No clue if it’s still there after the re-design.

  • Stone Ridge hosts the largest used book sale in the area. They accept books 24/7 on the front porch of where the sort the books.

  • I second the Book Thing in Baltimore. It’s easy to make a day trip up there and then you can peruse their warehouse for new books for yourself.

  • Books for America is an amazing place, if you haven’t been. I encourage supporting it any way you can!!!

    Try these organizations, as suggested by the American Library Association:
    Here’s one from that page in DC :,,contentMDK:20274001~pagePK:64156201~piPK:64156133~theSitePK:444098,00.html

    • Books for America doesn’t accept romance novels or old textbooks, but it’s definitely worth checking out. So many great, cheap books.

      I’m also biased because the guys who work there are my friends. 🙂

  • You can also donate to The Lantern, which is a used bookstore in Georgetown off Wisconsin (maybe on P street?). It’s run entirely on donations and volunteers from the Bryn Mawr alumni association, and all proceeds go to provide scholarships for Bryn Mawr students. They have a great selection of mass market paperbacks, and they’re not too picky about content as long as the book is in good condition. Last time I donate they were also able to give me a receipt for taxes.

  • Sell them to Powell’s in Portland.

  • Almost every DC library has a “Friends of _ _ _ _” group that has a used book sale to raise funds for the library. I know that the Friends of Northeast Library has donated a couple of computers.

  • you can get rid of anythign on craigslist/free. i had a huge collection of good fiction books a few years ago and i put it on cl/free as a “tell me why you deserve it” contest, had about 100 responses in one day, and a lot of fun reading the replies.

  • or a min recycle them

  • Used books were a lot more attractive before the bedbug epidemic.

  • Tear off the covers and place book guts in recycling. If bored, shred and compost.
    I love books but some publications were a waste of trees, have absolutely no redeeming value and are a burden to whatever non-profit you dump them on. A burden because if they don’t sell- they have to get rid of them. Fiance works for a library and has had the Second Story guy come by and tell him that their duplicate books weren’t even worth packing up.
    But if you can’t stand to destroy the books, try freecycle, Craigslist, or a box on the sidewalk.

  • Donate to a hospital. I give old books to georgetown University Hospital. There are book shelves on most floors for both patients and their families to borrow. Helps take the mind off the pain/suffering.

  • I’m the OP — this is exactly what I was worried about. I don’t want to burden an organization with books that won’t go anywhere. I don’t think DCPL would even want them, but I’ll look into it.

    • If you don’t think DCPL would want them, you are probably right. The donation policy is here:

      My reply was only to say that there are several ‘barnes and noble but FREE’ places (25 of them) in DC for people who wanted to find books, not to donate them. Good luck with yours!

  • Reference books in particular are useless and most donation sites won’t tell you, but they will dispose of them. We can hope they will recycle, and I am sure some do, but many just throw them in the same dumpster you were avoiding.

    Please – if you are going to throw books in a box and put them out front with a “FREE” sign (which looks like hell and usually annoys your neighbors), don’t leave them out for more than a day. And if it is going ot rain, bring them in. Seriously – there are too many freaks on my street who do this, leave them out for three weeks until they are absolutely disintegrating. It’s just plain lazy and stupid.

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