If you have been donating books in bins that are popping up around California, you might discover that some of these books are being sold for profit. Berkeleyside ran a great article on this so I don’t want to repeat the story. Below is one quote to give you a flavor.
“They’re not being straightforward,” said Diane Davenport, president of Friends of the Berkeley Public Library. “TRM made $26 million last year from books that they’d gotten out of these blue bins.”
Ms. Davenport is worried that people could be donating books that are of a quality to resell to the Friends of the Public Libraries. Now I love the Berkeley Public Libraries and my family are avid users. I often remind my family that this is not a free service, but one we pay for out of our taxes.
I want to educate my children about the positive aspects of paying our taxes. I hate tax-dodgers as you well know from this blog. I can’t help feeling that if people paid their share (companies too), we might not even have a deficit, or even a recession (yeah I can’t prove this).
However, I am not against finding ways to lower our taxes without compromising key services. If we can find creative ways to finance such services, why not? According to Ms. Davenport, last year the Friends raised $128,000 for the Berkeley Public Libraries through sales of books in their little stores.
“We depend on donations of salable books,” said Sayre Van Young, a volunteer with the Friends. “If people want to stick their 1983 encyclopedia in those damn blue bins, that’s okay.”
Almost 2/3 of donated books are not in a condition to sell and these are either given away for free or donated to the non-profit DR3 recycling program run by St. Vincent de Paul.
So if you enjoy the library as I do, I want to suggest two things:
1) next time you are at the library or near their store off Telegraph, pop in and buy a couple of books.
2) look for a couple of books that you have at home that are in good condition to donate, so that the Friends can help finance our excellent libraries.
I believe the role of the library is even more important during an economic recession. I see people using the computers and Internet access to apply for jobs. I see children gaining a love for literature and this can’t be bad for the world (or specifically authors!) I am on the road right now, but pledge to donate three books that are collecting dust on my bookshelves when I return.
How about you?
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).