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Day 172: Please don't give me your 350,000 books. Thx.

Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn look cute surrounded by messy piles of books.
OK, they look cute everywhere.

Today's post is about the fine line between a collection, and garbage. It is inspired by this article, about a woman who is stuck with her dead neighbour's 350,000 books. Many of the comments suggest that she hire library students to catalogue them, or donate them to a local library.

On behalf of librarians everywhere: LIBRARIES DO NOT WANT THESE BOOKS. Here's a secret: just because you think your books have value, doesn't mean that they have value. Leaving a book at a library may make you feel good about yourself, but know what? Libraries like new books. If you donate your musty old books to a library, even if some of them are partially-singed 1st editions of Black Beauty, library staff are too busy to sort through them. These books will be either sold for $0.10 each or sent off to paper recycling. So skip the middle man and ship these off to be recycled.

Demeter's "Paperback" scented perfume. Ha! I smell like this every day, I don't need to buy a bottle.
*Note: feel free to buy me a bottle. I bet it smells nice.

NOBODY WANTS THESE BOOKS. Why should they? If nobody wants something, then it doesn't have any value. These books would probably have more value as pulp at a paper recycling factory than in her house. And, as a library worker, PLEASE DO NOT DONATE THESE TO YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY

Even Karl Lagerfeld doesn't have room for 350,000 more books.

But this is part of a larger picture. Many people buy stuff that they don't end up using. And because they spent money on these items, they feel that they have value. But if nobody else wants it, and you can't use it? Then it's garbage. How do you know if it's garbage or not? You can try selling it on Ebay and if nobody bids, then either you set up the listing incorrectly, or it is not valuable. You could have a garage sale. If nobody buys it, or even picks it up at the end of the day when you put all the free stuff on the curb, it is not valuable

This is the Levi Jeans archivist! How cool a job is that?

I worked for two summer in archives, where part of my job was to sort through boxes of donated papers. People want to think that everything they've ever touched is valuable, but know what? No archive in the universe wants to keep your old bank statements, even if you are famous for being involved in fraud or something (I don't think it's legal to keep bank statements, anyway, until people have been dead for awhile). You can hoard stuff and then donate it all to a small archives, but know what? You will really annoy that archives' summer students. And who wants that?

So, I don't know. It seems like a fine line between a "collection" and just being a hoarder, whose belongings will eventually be thrown in a landfill somewhere. And it's great when you can recycle or make a craft out of old junk... but sometimes, junk is just junk. And while having a big collection can be fun, it's not so fun for the people left behind after you die, who have to sort it out.

This is maybe an argument in favour if minimalism. I don't know. And I'm not criticizing anybody else! Nor could I, with my "collection" of lip balm and nail polish.


Stephanie said...

I personally would pick the library over the recycler unless there was something that rendered the books unreadable. I let my library decide and I get the tax receipt. I am pretty sure that is why most people donate their "crap" anyways.

Daisy said...

I would definitely either donate the books (that I have read or didn't want to read) to a library or a literacy program.

THough, I would die and go to heaven if my anyone at all left me that many books!

Annabelle said...

I don't think all libraries give out tax receipts. If that's an option, I suppose it makes sense. I do not advocate donating boxes of old Christmas cards and bank statements to archives, though. ;)

Frugal(er) said...

I got into a fight (at library) with a woman who wanted to donate her 1986 set of encyclopedia. I said we wouldn't take them, and she was flabbergasted.

"They're in great shape!"

"Ma'am, the man who these books claim is president is now dead, that means the information is too old."

Of course your World Books from 1986 are in great shape--they barely get used!

People just need to get better at getting rid of things. Well said :)

Annabelle said...

Thanks, Frugal(er)! I was hoping you'd check out this post. Us frugal library types need to stick together ;)

People are really reluctant to concede that their books have become obsolete. There is a really strong sense in lots of people that *every* book has value. And maybe they do, but just not in an already-crowded library.

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