How Do You Decide Where to Donate Books?

I regularly go through my bookshelves to find titles to donate.  If I have no plans to reread a book, it makes sense for me to pass it onto someone who will enjoy it, rather than keep it on a shelf just because.  But there are dozens of places to donate books, including, but not limited to, schools, libraries, literacy programs, women’s shelters, Little Free Libraries, and book swaps.  So how does a reader decide the best place to donate their volumes?

Perhaps one of the most common reasons people choose to donate books is how easy it is to do so.  Convenience and cost both come into play here.  For example,  donating to places like the local library is fairly easy for many readers because they already go to the library and do not need to make a special trip to drop off books.  Dropping off books at a library (or a school, Little Free Library, book swap, etc.) is also free. In contrast, shipping books elsewhere could quickly result in large bills, especially if a person regularly donates many volumes.  For this reason, some readers who may want to donate books to charities that are not local may themselves unable to do so.

When I donate books, I do take convenience and cost into account, but I also try to consider how my donation could have the biggest impact.  A big impact may mean different things to different people.  For me, this often means giving books to a place where the most people can benefit and where those most in need are most likely to benefit.  For this reason, I like to donate to the library specifically because the books that go onto their shelves can potentially be read by many people,  many of them living in disadvantaged neighborhoods.  If the library sells my donations, they can use the money to buy more materials for their patrons.

Sometimes, however, I like to see a more immediate impact with my donations.  In the past, I have donated books to classroom libraries because I had heard that teachers were searching for specific titles for their students.  I liked to know that my donations were actually wanted and would actually be read and appreciated.  It can be nice to have confirmation that a donation was received well, rather than simply donating and hoping for the best.

There are many places to donate books and people generally have their own opinions about the “best” way to distribute books.  What works for one person, however, may not work for another.  And people will have different values they prioritize when deciding what to do with their books.  I tend to value convenience, cost, and the ability to reach the largest number of people.  How do you decide where to donate your books?

22 thoughts on “How Do You Decide Where to Donate Books?

  1. devouringbooks2017 says:

    I am kind of struggling with this. Since I became a book blogger I have found that I am running out of room for my books. While it is hard to get rid of some of them, there are some that I am just not going to read or reread that I should donate. I don’t know what to do with my ARCs and I don’t know where to donate the books locally where they will actually get used. I really need to do some research into local areas that want book donations.

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  2. Karen J Schoff says:

    We donate our books to a charity called Lifeline. Every year they hold book sales around the country which raise huge amounts of money to provide services for the underprivileged. Our books go to a new home and it helps the needy…and other people’s donations seem to make their way into our home and out again. And on it goes.

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  3. ashley says:

    The last time I donated books I donated them to a charity that puts books in libraries(school, reservations, and public) in the most underprivileged communities. I did have to ship the box, however, the flat rate boxes from USPS are great for this. I’ve also donated to the library due to convenience but libraries aren’t always accepting donations so that’s something that I take into consideration.

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    • Krysta says:

      That seems like a pretty good deal if you can get a flat rate or ship media mail! And I totally understand about libraries. Once I asked a library if they accepted donations and the woman said yes, but in a tone that really said, “And I hope I never see you again, you annoying person.” So I didn’t bring that library any more books….

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  4. ofmariaantonia says:

    I often stockpile my books I mean to donate. Then when a charity or my church is holding a book sale, I’ll take them in. I have also donated to schools and free libraries, but less often. Sometimes I just pass the books on to family. (And sometimes I’ll take them in to a used book store to get credit for more books.)

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    • Krysta says:

      I do something similar! I get out a box and fill it up, then donate when it’s full! Usually I just bring it to the library because I basically live at the library, anyway.

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    • Krysta says:

      That is a great idea! It’s my understanding that it’s become more difficult to send books to prisons because of smuggling, but I believe you can still do it through certain approved charities.

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  5. Elspeth says:

    I decide where to donate books based on where I think the donation would be most valuable to both me and to the donor organization.

    We have a really great used bookstore in our area which has a good selection of books which are interesting and useful to homeschoolers, which we are. If I have books that I think would be valued there, I take them there, and in return for the donations, they offer credit towards store purchases. It’s not a lot of money, but it does help during seasons when we’re in the process of buying books.

    There are other books that I donate to Goodwill, but that’s usually the place where I take cookbooks or children’s books. Only books in good condition though. I hate when people donate trash or damaged goods. Because cookbooks and children’s books are universally read and coveted, I figured it’s a good way to make them available to people for very little money.

    Sometimes, I donate them at the classical homeschool program that our kids are enrolled in. There’s always someone interested in a book we’ve read that they haven’t and there are always books there that we haven’t read. Perfect book swap environment.

    Good post!

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    • Krysta says:

      It sounds like you have the perfect system worked out! I love how carefully you decide where each type of book is most likely to be appreciated!

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  6. Grab the Lapels says:

    The Little Free Library is easiest for me. I used to donate to Goodwill but stopped doing that for some reason. I think I read somewhere that the CEO of Goodwill makes serious bank, and that made me angry. I recently joined a book club that meets once and month and is hosted by librarians. They bring ARCs they’ve received for us to take home if we want. I might start taking my books to that.

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  7. Kelly | Another Book in the Wall says:

    Wonderful post, love! Whenever I donate books, I often do so at my local library for the same reasons you listed. I’d like to believe that the books I donate there will have a large impact, because it can potentially reach many people! I agree that it would be nice to see some form of assurance that the donations are being read or sold at the library for a good cause.

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  8. Sammie @ The Writerly Way says:

    I feel like I’m lucky in this regard, because there are really only two places around here to donate: the library or the thrift store. And honestly, the thrift store is so overrun by books that nobody buys, because people aren’t going there to buy books. Plus, I just love supporting the local library, and I always pick up a bunch of books when they have their book sales, so I feel like it’s books in, books out and keeps everything flowing. xD And I know they’re going to a good home, in that case.

    I would love to donate more to classroom libraries, but down here, getting teachers and the school to actually communicate with parents is like pulling freaking teeth. Which I don’t understand, because it feels like, somehow, everyone at the school knows me? And I always go out of my way to let them know that anything they need help with, I’m there. I’ll find a way to help them get what they need. Where I live, though, literacy is a huge problem. The kids are just so far behind. So the books my daughter’s bringing home, as a second grader, to read for homework are what I would consider first grade books, at most, only because there’s sometimes challenging vocabulary (which is good). In first grade, she was bringing home preschool books. So I would love to be able to donate more there to give the kids more options. Maybe I’ll try to push more in the upcoming school year to really collaborate with the teachers and tell them not to be shy about letting us know what they need, since I know it’s hard sometimes. 🙂

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    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I like donating to the library because at least I know book lovers go there! I’ve tried leaving books in other, non-book specific places and often no one will touch them. I like to donate to the library because I know there are more likely to be appreciated there!

      Yeah, the reading scores where I live are pretty low. I once volunteered in an elementary school where they had one measly shelf of chapter books–everything else was picture books, like they didn’t expect the kids to be able to read anything else. And, yeah, picture books are sophisticated and actually sometimes have higher sophistication in word choice and sentence structure than chapter books. But, I would think you’d want kids to move on to chapter books eventually and to learn to read and focus on longer works. But apparently this school didn’t think it was possible?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sammie @ The Writerly Way says:

        Unfortunately, the picture books I’ve seen, the sort that our school shelves anyway, aren’t particularly sophisticated. There are some longer, more sophisticated picture books (the ones that are meant as a transition to early chapter books, basically), but our school doesn’t have a lot of those, unfortunately. It’s the easier ones with the big font and few words on each page.

        I think teachers have it rough. Imagine 30 kids, ranging from pre-school reading levels to fifth or sixth grade reading levels. How can you prepare for all that? I mean, I don’t at all envy them trying to set up their classroom. I think they just take an average and mostly stock that, so some will be reading up and some will be reading down. And where I live, it’s almost considered ridiculous or an affront by the child-rearing that someone would choose to willingly read. The other kids I see at the library are those whose parents are bookworms (like myself) or who are there with their grandparents, mostly.

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  9. Annemieke says:

    The last time I donated my books to a charity shop since they were already coming to pick up a large closet from us we sent a few boxes along with it which was fine for them. With merijn’s book I’ve found a Dutch children site like book crossing where there are stations where you can leave books, you can get a code online and see where the books are going. I like that so a few weeks ago I left 9 books at the closest station to us for the first time.

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    • Krysta says:

      Oh, that’s so cool! I once found a box where you could donate books, but you definitely couldn’t track them! The box just said they would be donated. I went with it because I’d tried giving books to the library in that area and they acted super put out about having to accept my donation. XD

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