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PRINT DONATIONS: If your library is trending virtual, consider going green too!

Posted by on June 27th, 2011 Posted in: Outreach

Prepared by: PJ Grier – Outreach and Access Coordinator, NN/LM, Southeastern Atlantic Region

It is a sign of the times that health sciences libraries are under considerable pressure to consolidate print collections for space planning, budget or staffing reasons. As librarians, we know that it is a sin to toss print materials, carte blanche, into a dumpster whose remains end up in a municipal landfill.  Being green by recycling is the way to go. Having time and advance warning helps, but frequently we don’t have both, simultaneously.

After attending springtime conferences and polling colleagues in-person or via discussion lists over the last few months, I’ve compiled the following list of eleven potential “second homes” for print discards.  As with any list, you must do a little investigating. Some agencies are selective in the types of materials they will accept, while others have broader missions to fulfill.  Some might impose a fee of one kind or another. Others may offer a deposit credit, which may favorably sway you. One agency even turns unwanted books into unique 3-D works of art. In the end, the list does not purport to be exhaustive, there are no RML endorsements and it is up to you to do the homework in making the proper service connections.

Don’t fret if your favorite donation agency is not shown; just send PJ Grier an email with the specifics. Once the list is posted on our website, it will be easier to update from time to time. I would also be interested in hearing from anyone who has had memorable experiences using any of the agencies listed below.

American College of Surgeons – Operation Giving Back

Listed agencies accept medical texts for donation to appropriate communities in need. Please contact them prior to shipping any materials to be sure that your donation can be utilized.

American Library Association
A fact sheet and resource site covering all aspects of book donations.

Better World Books  – Library Discards & Donations Program

They pay to ship the books and sell them over online marketplaces – generating funding for both libraries and non-profit literacy initiatives. There are no sign-up fees, monthly fees, or one-time fees. They have also launched a new initiative to help GREEN your campus by allowing you to collect books from around the campus, and ship them with your discards and donations.  You’ll not only be helping the environment, but the library will receive a commission.

Books for Africa

Books For Africa ships high-quality donated text, library, and reference books that are relevant to people living in Africa. Acceptable are recently published reference books such as encyclopedias and dictionaries and medical, nursing and allied health books.


One of our colleagues, Robin Delaloye, is insanely creative and has developed a unique and fascinating way to artistically recycle library discards into 3-dimensional original works of book sculpture. The website gives her contact information. Perhaps your book discards will find new lives as works of art!

International Book Bank

Please contact agency to discuss options and to ensure that your donation can be used effectively in a developing country.

International Book Project
Sends donated books to developing countries and parts of the U.S.A. – new or used from individuals, schools and libraries, on all levels, children’s through graduate and professional school.

National Library of Medicine – Journal Donation Program
The National Library of Medicine welcomes donations of print volumes missing from its collection. Use the Journal Donation System to find out if it needs volumes that you could donate. For most titles, the system lists the volumes needed. For a few titles, the system does not list the volumes and you must enter the range of volumes you could donate. NLM will check its stacks and let you know by email the needed volumes.

The Book Thing of Baltimore

Our mission is to put unwanted books into the hands of those who want them. It accepts books and magazines regardless of age or subject matter. Donations are always welcome.

United States Book Exchange – (USBE)

Disposing of surplus periodicals and books can be a librarian’s nightmare. USBE makes it easy for libraries: (1) either send all of your duplicate and surplus periodicals and serials, without notifying us in advance. Or, (2) send USBE a list of your duplicates and we’ll make selections and provide directions for shipping. USBE will pay the shipping charges on the items it selects.

University of Buffalo Libraries – Global Agency Clearinghouse

A central resource to provide donors contact information for institutions, agencies, and programs that desperately need educational materials and equipment but have little or no budget. Listings are organized geographically by world region or continent, followed by specific countries. Each entry also lists the mission of the entity and the types of materials and subject areas needed.


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