Over the last few weeks, people have been going back and forth pretty aggressively when it came to a bit of Marie Kondo’s advice: Just how many books should you keep? And is it really better to give them away?
When it comes to cleaning up, we know that while it’s important to hold on to your faves, you also shouldn’t be afraid to clean through them once in a while. After all, you can find them a knew home, and someone else can fall in love with them for the first time! So, knowing what to do with the books you no longer read might then become the hardest part. We’re still waiting for someone to invent that magical, all-storing, sharing bookcase, but hey, what can you do until then?
If you need to create room on your shelves, knowing where to donate books is important. You do not (read: do not) need to throw them out! Marie says everything in your home should spark joy. If you’re looking at your bookshelf and see sleeping books that don’t give you that spark of joy anymore, let them spark joy in another home by donating them!
Where to Donate Books
WHEN CLEANING OUT YOUR SHELVES
Perhaps the most obvious place to donate books is your local library. Libraries give us the opportunity to read books for free, so it’s always great to give back. Most libraries have a Friends of the Library group that will put together special book sales to benefit the library. If your library can’t use your donated books on the shelf, this group can sometimes take your donated books and resell them at these fundraising events. (Image via Flickr by Kristina)
Another organization that accepts books to help give back to the community is Goodwill. You’re likely familiar with Goodwill stores for clothing donations, but did you know you can also donate your old books? Proceeds from these resale stores help fund employment training, job placement services, and other programs for people in the local community who face certain barriers that prevent them from getting a job. (Image via Flickr by Joe Green)
3. Daycare Centers and Schools
If you’re raising little readers who go through books as fast as they grow out of their clothes, donate them. Schools and daycare centers in your community will sometimes accept book donations. Many teachers and daycare center providers use their own money to stock their classroom libraries, so donations are always appreciated. Additionally, funding for school libraries is sometimes limited. Gently used copies of current and classic titles can go a long way toward helping the school keep the library shelves stocked. (Image via Flickr by PDPlay)
4. Vietnam Veterans of America
Vietnam Veterans of America is a nonprofit organization that helps support veterans across the country. You can donate almost anything, including clothing, shoes, tools, toys, household items, and of course, books. The organization is funded without any help from the government, so your donation helps fund veteran services and outreach programs. Too busy reading your favorite YA novel to drop off your books? You can also arrange to have the program pick up your donation at your home. (Image via Flickr by vincent nadal)
If you have books that look old or are simply too worn down to donate to other places, ask your local theater if it can take them. Many theaters can use your books as props during plays and performances. Old books are especially useful for plays set in another time period, and torn or damaged books are great for performances that call for a creepy background. (Image via Flickr by Phil Squattrito)
6. Habitat for Humanity ReStores
You might be familiar with Habitat for Humanity because of the work the nonprofit organization does to help build and restore homes around the world. However, what you might not realize is that the organization also has Habitat for Humanity ReStores that sell new and used building and household materials, including your old books. Proceeds from the stores help Habitat for Humanity construct new houses within your community. (Image via Flickr by Britt.Collins)
7. Retirement Homes and Assisted Living Facilities
Retirement homes and assisted living facilities are another good option for donating your books. These establishments often have group areas stocked with games and books. Unfortunately, if the selection isn’t varied, residents can often end up reading the same books again and again. Call some facilities in your area to see if they can handle a book donation, especially if you happen to have any large-print books you’re looking to donate. (Image via Flickr by Kaycos)
8. Books for Soldiers and Operation Paperback
Operation Paperback will collect gently used books to send them to deployed American soldiers overseas. If you sign up with Books for Soldiers, you get to create care packages with your used books and send them to troops stationed overseas. After you sign up as a volunteer with Books for Soldiers, you have a chance to look through the soldiers’ book requests. Some will ask for specific titles or a certain genre. However, most just ask for anything to read. You can also include DVDs and CDs with your care package. (Image via Flickr by Greene County Public Library)
Prisons have libraries used to help educate inmates and give them access to reading material. These libraries are always in desperate need of books. There are several programs currently working to collect used books and send them to prisons, including the Prison Book Program, Books Through Bars, and Books to Prisoners. These organizations will collect donated books and distribute them to inmates.
The programs generally have a list of the most needed materials, including dictionaries, history books, textbooks, study guides, and drug and alcohol recovery books. Keep in mind that the programs will only accept paperback books, since most prisons don’t allow hardcover books. (Image via Flickr by Amanda Oliver)
10. Reader to Reader, Inc.
How about expanding literacy programs with your book donation? Reader to Reader, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that works to expand learning opportunities in some of the most underserved communities in the United States, including rural towns, inner-city schools, and Native American reservations. Donated books go to help under-resourced public libraries and school libraries across the country. Additionally, the program has helped restock libraries around the country after natural disasters have destroyed collections. (Image via Flickr by Yoann JEZEQUEL)
11. Kids Need to Read
Another nonprofit organization created to help encourage literacy programs for children and provide books to underfunded schools and libraries across the country is Kids Need to Read. The program accepts books and magazines for reading levels that range from preschool to high school. They ask for new and like-new books that aren’t scribbled on or torn, so make sure your children’s Picasso tendencies stay on the easel instead of their books. (Image via Flickr by QQ Zuo)
12. Books for Africa
Along with programs that help schools and libraries in the United States, you can also find organizations that help readers in other countries. Books for Africa will collect, sort, ship, and distribute books to students in Africa. The organization sends millions of books every year to help combat the extreme lack of books in several countries. While the charity has a serious need for recent textbooks and reference books at primary and secondary educational levels, you can also donate nonfiction and fiction books. (Image via Flickr by Lucas Croce)
13. African Library Project
Another organization that helps grow literacy programs in Africa by sending used book donations is the African Library Project. This organization focuses mainly on schools and libraries in sub-Saharan Africa. They collect gently used books, sort them, and ship them to a designated school or community library. You can also coordinate a book drive in your own community to help open a library in Africa. All you need to do is collect 1,000 used books and raise $500 for shipping and related costs to give one community in Africa a library. (Image via African Library Project)
14. Literacy Dog Therapy Programs
How about donating your books to dogs? Don’t get too excited — the dogs don’t actually read. They listen to kids read. For many children, learning how to read is a stressful situation, and they can feel intimated trying to read to adults. However, these same children thrive when practicing their reading skills on dogs because they feel less judgment. You can find local programs across the country that connect dogs and children learning how to read.
Certain shelters also have reading programs in place to help kids become more comfortable with reading and help dogs get ready for adoption. For example, the Humane Society of Missouri has a Shelter Buddies Reading Program designed to comfort and reduce the anxiety of shelter pets. While the children are allowed to bring their own books, the shelter also has a library of animal-themed books available. You can check with shelters in your area to see if they have a similar program or need books to help create their own program. (Image via Flickr by Ricardo)
15. Local Donation Programs
Plenty of communities have their own book donation programs you can use. As an example, residents in Los Angeles can take advantage of a service called Re-Book It. This free program collects books and donates them to schools, libraries, hospitals, programs for at-risk children, and more. You can check with schools, churches, libraries, and volunteer organizations within your community to see if they offer anything similar. (Image via Epic Reads)
Your old books don’t have to sit on your shelves gathering dust. Instead, you can make room for new books when you take advantage of one of these great donation programs. Do you have a favorite way to donate your books? Let us know in the comments below.