Friday, April 23, 2010

Donations - curse or blessing?

Every library gets donations - some are good, like barely-read new fiction and some are bad, like dusty boxes of Reader's Digest.  So, how do you ensure that you don't receive those musty, moldy, decades old copies of National Geographic and ancient tomes of Encyclopedia Britannica?  Develop a donations policy and stick to it. In a recent article, entitled "Getting the Most From Donations" (Public Libraries, March/April 2010) Tom Cooper, Director of Webster Groves Public Library outlines how you can ensure that a box full of donations is a welcome site.
First of all, since taking in donations is a time-consuming process, recruit your Friends group or volunteers to sort out the good from the bad.  Second of all, this sorting process becomes much easier when you restrict what comes in in the first place.  The only real way to do this without hurting people's feelings is to include these 4 element in your donations policy:
1. What kinds of donations you do and do not accept.
2. What you will do with the donations.
3. When and how you will receive them.
4. How you will acknowledge them.
(a complete policy can be found in the article)
Having this spelled out in a policy ensures that all staff members know what to say when patrons phone or come in and ask, "Do you accept donations?"
While writing a donations policy is the easiest way to avoid the curse of the moldy donations (and a trip to the store for your allergy medication!) Cooper has a number of other suggestions that can help:

  • close boxes of donations before you throw them in the dumpster to avoid hurt feelings;
  • use packing tape to seal up the boxes - it's much cheaper than the book tape you may have on hand;
  • rotate the items on your book sale table so that "new merchandise" is displayed on a regular basis;
  • use your current collection policy when considering adding donations to the collection;
  • don't take something just because you feel obligated - use your donations policy to dictate what you will and will not take
  • make sure your patrons know not to bring in more than they can carry - unless you have a bunch of burly teenagers on hand to help unload!
  • use common sense - if you think it will sell in the booksale or can be added to the collection, take it, if not, don't.

 Read the full article:
Tom Cooper, "Getting the Most From Donations," Public Libraries, March/April 2010.


  1. Please provide a link to the article.

  2. It's not available online, but you can find it in Library Lit and Information Science Full Text through Wilson Web.