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Collection Development Handbook: Donations

Donations to the collection

Many wonderful and important titles have come into the collection through book donations. 

If someone asks you if the library will accept their donations, you can immediately tell them that, yes, the library does appreciate donations.  Then it would be best to refer the person to Martha.

When donations arrive . . .

  1. Martha does a preliminary look-through and eliminates obviously unsuitable items.  Rejects go into the book sale unless there are other stipulations from the donor.
  2. Martha sorts by subject and passes the books to the appropriate liaison.
  3. Liaison decides to add or not add and returns books to Martha with slips marked to show the decision.

Donors FAQs

Will my books be placed in the library?

We check to see if the library already owns the title.  If so, we compare the two books to see if the donated copy is better than ours; if so, we swap them. If the library does not have the book, we will add it to the collection if it meets the criteria in the collection policy for that subject.

 What happens to my donations if the library dosn't want to add them to the collection?

If you give the books outright, with no restrictions, any books we can't use are placed in our annual book sale and the money from the sale is used to buy new books.

If you wish, we can return to you any books we can't use.  Be sure to tell us this is what you want to do.

Can I get a tax deduction for my donation?

Only the books that are added to the library's collection can be deducted. When you bring the books, please let us know that you want a tax deduction so that we can keep a record. We will send you a letter listing the titles we added. Legally we cannot place a dollar value on the books for your tax deduction; as with all non-monetary donations, it is up to the donor to assign a dollar amount to his/her donation.

How do I figure out the value?

You may be able to get a general idea of used book prices by browsing through used-book stores, or by checking the prices from online sellers.  Good places to look include Alibris and The Strand.

As a rule of thumb, most used books are not worth their original selling price. However, if the book is hard to find and is in demand, the price may be a considerably higher than originally.

What else can I do with old books?

There may be local used-book sellers who would buy them. Sometimes you can sell them online through Amazon, Alibris, or even EBay.

You'll find really helpful information in Your Old Books. This pamphlet was created by the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. 

To add or not to add--that is the question . . .

Donations tend to be a mixed bag of useful items along with outdated or worn out books. There are exceptions, of course, but most donations are not targeted to the library's needs.

Consider these points in making your decision about whether or not to add to the collections.

  • Date--is the material too old to be useful? Many times, this is the case.
  • Relevance -- does this book actually belong in the subject collection? Does it fit the collection development policy for this subject? Would I buy this book now if money was not an issue?
  • Condition--underlining, stains, mold, torn or taped pages, warped or loose covers, brittle condition, loose pages, all are red flags. We already have plenty of worn-out, out-dated books, thank you! The need for minor repairs, such as a loose page in an otherwise viable book, is OK.