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One person’s trash

I am a huge fan of upcycling and repurposing, whether it’s clothes or furnishings. I am probably an even bigger fan of looking through antique and thrift stores, tag sales and odd markets for the perfect piece to fit in my strange collection of goods. I can look around our house and tell a story about pretty much everything in our house. To me, the saying, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure,” sums up the majority of my furnishings. But sometimes our belongings shouldn’t be shared with others. 

Through the spring quarantine, COVID cleaning became an obsession with most of us. We were sharing, donating and offloading our trash, hoping that others could turn it into treasure. The nice thing about offering people our used goods is the opportunity for them to say no. Donation centers and libraries aren’t always given the opportunity to say no. Those organizations simply ask that we follow their rules. 

A few months ago, the little community library that I manage was being overrun by books. Not just recent thrillers or a pleasant beach read, but old textbooks, National Geographic collector’s items, ripped and waterlogged books, and even an occasional toy. I would just clean out the old stuff, organize the shelves and replace the destroyed/outdated books with books people had donated appropriately, according to the signs posted all over the cabinet. I am not here to shame anyone. After months of cleaning and disposing of books, I finally notified my community and was met with overwhelming support. Because I had been silently getting rid of the moldy outdated books, I wasn’t giving people an opportunity to help monitor the situation. This was a community library, and I needed the community’s help. They gave it.

I’ve recently been hearing stories that town free libraries and other little libraries are experiencing similar issues. Library drop boxes are being filled with old schoolbooks and periodicals. Boxes of books are being placed near little libraries to brave the elements. Just like donation centers, the libraries have very strict rules that allow these community resources to flourish. My first rule before donating is to consider whether a family member would be honored or angered if I dropped my donations off at their house.

Besides just posting on social media or putting out a free sign, there are ways to donate books in good condition if your library is not currently taking them. Please look into alternative organizations like local donation sites or book-swapping sites. Larger organizations taking books are Goodwill, Salvation Army, Better World Books, Books Through Bars (booksthroughbars.org), Books For Africa (booksforafrica.org) and Books to Prisoners (currently not accepting, but use this for future reference). Even though it may not be the path you want, most books can be recycled. I understand and appreciate anyone who wants to share their favorite books. It’s just that sometimes your gift can be too much of a good thing. Keep reading!

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