I distinctly remember the moment I decided to give away my personal library. My husband and I were in the process of moving into a new apartment. It was a hot summer day, and I was tired. I’d been up and down the stairs a dozen times with boxes full of books.
Hauling my books around took physical and emotional energy, so I decided to donate my personal library. I had hundreds of books and I don’t regret letting them go.
Instead of collecting dust on my bookshelf, or being moved from place to place, my used books are in the hands of a person who actually wants to read them. This delights me! Plus, giving my books away made my living space cleaner, more organized, and less cluttered.
Why should I donate used books?
Currently, my husband and I have a small bookcase. We both have tiny personal libraries that consist of 5-10 books each. When I finish reading a book, I give it away. And, my husband does the same thing.
Below are a few key reasons why we continue to donate our books:
- Small bookcases are easy to clean, organize, and they are visually appealing.
- Supporting local libraries and charities through book donations is a simple way to give back to my community.
- My library is an excellent place to find good reads, and it’s a place to make new connections. For example, libraries often have bulletin boards with announcements about books clubs, local events, volunteer opportunities, and more. In an era of increasing loneliness, a library can be a bridge to connection.
- I celebrate that my books have gone to readers in need. As a bonus, I don’t feel guilty for not reading new or used books on my bookshelf.
I hope my list inspires you to donate your books to a local library or charity.
Where should I donate books?
There are so many places that will accept used books. Plus, donating books is a joyful way to make connections in your local community. For example, asking about book donations at my local library led me to a volunteer opportunity with an adult literacy program. Letting go of books can be gratifying and fun!
- Friends and Family. Ask loved ones if they would like to shop for books at your house. Giving books away to fellow book lovers is fun, and it will save you time. You won’t need to haul your books to the library or a charity.
- Local Libraries. Local libraries are vital community organizations. They host events, help people learn how to read, serve as gathering places, and more. Giving the gift of books helps keep libraries going.
- Local Used Bookstores. Often, local bookstores accept used books or you can sell them. I rarely sell my books. Instead, I prefer giving books away to my local bookstore.
- Little Free Library. I love this organization and their motto: “Take a book. Share a Book.” There are numerous Little Free Libraries near my home and that makes it easy for me to donate books. Don’t have a Little Free Library in your community? Start one.
- Create a “Free Books” Box. Find a box for extra books. Then bring the box to your office and place it in the breakroom or near your desk. This can be a fun way to share books with co-workers.
- Bookmobiles. Bookmobiles are traveling libraries that have a unique history. They are typically operated by libraries, schools, or activists. For example, the American Library Association sponsors the National Bookmobile Day each year. There are also non-profit organizations like Street Books that lend books to the homeless via bike-powered transportation.
- Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has given away over 150 million books to kids. Check to see if Dolly’s Imagination Library has an affiliate in your area. They might be accepting books!
- Goodwill. Goodwill is a non-profit organization that helps people “find a job and grow their careers.” They offer employment placement services, and community-based programs to help individuals find work. Goodwill accepts a variety of donations, including books. Find a location near you.
- Local Charities. Local charities are a great place to donate books. For example, a thrift store near my home provides job training and placement services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Donation Town is a good resource to find local charities that will pick up your donations for free.
- Assisted Living Communities. Assisted living communities are designed to care for older adults’ bodies and minds. Typically, the communities have an Activity Director that is in charge of creating programs and events that support seniors. They have everything from Tai Chi to book clubs. Contact an assisted living community near you and ask if they are accepting books.
- Community Centers. Community Centers serve local communities. They provide a variety of youth and adult activities such as arts and crafts, sports and fitness, drama and dance, books clubs, little libraries, and more. Sometimes they accept book donations. Call your local Community Center for more information.
- Prison Book Program. The Prison Book Program supports “people in prison by sending them free books and print resources.” You can donate books by mail, drop offs, and more.
- Books for Soldiers. Books for Soldiers sends books to members of the U.S. military. Once you become an approved volunteer, you can send books directly to a soldier.
- Reader to Reader. is a “charity dedicated to bringing books, free of charge, to under-resourced school libraries and public libraries across the United States.” They have donated millions of books to public libraries and schools.
- Books for Africa. Books For Africa collects, ships books, and library enhancement materials to every country in Africa. They collaborate with donors, publishers, and African partners.
- Pickup Please. The Vietnam Veterans of America runs a donation program called Pickup Please. You can donate books – or items like clothing, jewelry, toys, bikes, stereos, and more – and make a “make a difference in the lives of America’s Veterans and their families.”
- Better World Books. Better World Books supports global literacy programs by selling books online. Find a book drop location near you. As they say, “If you love your books, set them free.”
- Freecycle. Freecycle is a “non-profit movement of people who are giving and getting stuff for free.” Membership is free. Create an account and make a post of the books you’d like to give away.
- Book Fairies. Book Fairies distributes books to “under-resourced communities on Long Island and New York City.”
- Books on the Subway. Books on the Subway is “like a public library, but it’s on the New York City subway.” They also have branches in other cities. If there isn’t a branch in your city, consider starting one.
- BookCrossing. BookCrossing “connects people through books.” The organization allows you to easily share books with new readers. All you have to do is label, share, and follow. BookCrossing is free to join, too.
- BookMooch. Similar to BookCrossing, BookMooch lets you give and exchange books. It’s free to join, easy to give and receive books, and it’s a simple way to help charities.
- Local Schools. Some public and private schools maintain small libraries. Call a few local schools in your commiunity and ask if they are in need of books.
- Boys & Girls Club of America. Some Boys & Girls Clubs have literacy programs and accept used books. Find a club near you and ask if they need books.
- Children’s Hospitals. Some children’s hospitals incorporate reading programs into their pediatric care. Reach Out and Read at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is a great example of this initiative. See if your local hospital has a similar program.
Some organizations, like libraries or thrift stores, offer tax write-offs for donating books. Policies differ from organization to organization, so ask a staff member for help.
What should I do with books in poor condition?
Some of my friends have books that are well loved; maybe too well-loved. They contain coffee stains, broken bindings, pages that have been folded over, and marginalia. Other books have been damaged by humidity or from dust because the books spent decades in boxes. As a result, the books aren’t in good shape to donate.
If you have books in poor condition, don’t worry. Try the ideas below:
- Recycle your books. According to Recycle Nation, most books can be recycled. Books are usually recycled into newspaper, tissue, writing paper, and paperboard. If you have books that can’t be donated, make sure you send them to a recycling facility.
- Get creative. Pinterest has a plethora of book recycling and project ideas. For example, you can learn how to turn an old book into an art journal, a book planter, book themed cards, furniture, and more. Learn more.
What are some other ways to declutter my home?
Looking for other ways to declutter your life? The following articles will help you simplify your wardrobe, home, and digital life: