Saturday, May 2, 2009

Donations to school libraries - a heavy price

Our library accepts donations - the collection management policy states that donations will be accepted in line with the selection policy - good condition, current, curriculum based, aged relevent, non biased and basically suitable for a school library. In most cases the donations we receive are excellent and have been added to the collection.

Late this week the assistants found a number of bags of books left outside a door that is not used very much. We are not sure how long they had been there - up to three days was the guess.

I like to deal with donations pretty swiftly and am quite ruthless with the decisions on what to include in our collection. Out of the multiple bags that were left (about 40 books in all) we will keep about 7 as the rest did not meet our guidelines. As I was sifting through this pile of 'donations' I wondered aloud why people would think that what they were donating was going to be even remotely interesting and useful to an international school library - most of the items were over 15 years old, filthy, moldy, brown and tatty looking. The rest were just irrelevent.

Why can't people just throw their own rubbish out? Why are books so revered that they cannot be thrown out when they pass their use by date? When I cull a collection people look at me in horror when I destroy most of the books we weed. Books are not items with a long shelf life. I will not donate my discards to other countries or charities without seriously considering their condition, relevance and age before letting them go. Having been on the receiving end of so much rubbish I am very conscious of the time and effort it takes to wade through well meaning donations.

Over this past year I now have 5 large boxes full of books that we cannot use - by giving us their 'donations' people have given us the added burden of disposing responsibly those items that we reject. I like the idea of altered books and this may be an excellent use for these books for a book week activity for the secondary students, otherwise they will be thrown out as they should have been in the first place.

Donations can be double edged swords.


Joe said...

I know what you mean about donations being a double-edged sword.

Have you thought of some sort of display or PR piece about what happens to donations, maybe with real samples and the reasons why a given item wasn't added to the collection.

Maybe a piece that says something like "the library welcomes donations of the following in good conditon..." with a list of criteria such as "science books under 3 years old", etc.

This may be a way to encourage cash donations instead of books, coupled with your "wish list" of titles.

You could make it sort of a challenge. "We would love to add 100% of donated items to the collection, but sometimes we just can't. Because many donated items are in poor condition and outdated, we only add x% to the collection. You can help by ...."

You could turn it into a PR opportunity.

Also wanted to let you know that when visiting the blog, all your pages pop up an authentication screen to log in to the "Twitter API". You can just cancel and proceed, but it's a little odd.

Best of Luck,

A fellow librarian from Illinois (but you knew that already from Google Analytics) :-)

Dianne said...

Thanks Joe for the suggestions - may try some of them next year.

Not sure why the twitter thing comes up all the time - will investigate!

Joe said...

Could you write about what's going on at the Metro Park Hotel? I've just seen the report that there is a confirmed swine flu case there and authorities have quarantined the entire hotel for 7 days. Are they literally guarding the doors? What about tourists with flights back home, etc.


Dianne said...

Hi Joe, Yes the Metro Hotel is in lock down - no one goes in or leaves. This was a lesson from SARS - one man in a hotel was responsible for spreading / starting SARS in HK. I do pity the tourists who are caught up in this - their stay in HK will be memorable and not for the usual reasons!