One of the most common questions I get asked here at the Bindoon Library is, “Do you accept donations?”
The answer is, “Yes! Yes we do.” But what happens with the books that you donate? Why is it that you might not see it on the shelf the next time you come in? Why do we keep some but not others? What’s the process we follow when someone turns up with 15 boxes of books and what is that look of panic flickering over my face?
Ultimately, our library is what is called a ‘non-selecting’ library. That means that the grant we receive from the State Government to purchase stock is managed by the State Library and other than a broadly defined profile, we have very little say over what selections are made. This means that we don’t always have that latest James Patterson or Nora Roberts book on the shelf. Luckily for us, there’s many avid readers around who buy a lot of those latest releases and pass them onto us when they’re done (I should take a moment here to say, “Hi, Mum! Thanks for the books!”) It’s thanks to them that we can keep somewhat up-to-date with our reader’s demands.
But not everything that is donated is a latest release. Not everything that is donated is in good condition. Or relevant. Some books are just destined for the big library in the sky. Examples of these include: books that are literally falling to pieces, the Yellow Pages, the 1984 Readers’ Digest Wine Guide, a campsite guide from the 70’s, or (my personal favourite) a 2004 West Magazine TV Guide.
When space is at a premium, such as in a very small library like ours, we have to be quite selective about what is added to our collection. If it’s an item that I know likely won’t be borrowed, the item will be designated for the free shelves or our Little Free Libraries. However, some items (such as the ones listed above) generally don’t find their forever homes and so they are upcycled for arts and crafts or binned.
Donations tend to come in waves. Sometimes I’ll have very few and my free shelves look like they’ve been stocked by Old Mother Hubbard. Other times, everyone in town is having a clean out at the same time and I’m completely inundated. This is when I might have a slightly panicked look on my face but that’s just me trying to figure out where I’m going to store them all until I can sort and process them. Ultimately, I will never say no to donations because even if they’re piled up in mountains around my desk, I know that they will eventually be used.
Lastly, the Bindoon Library will never sell donations. I feel very strongly that these items have been given to us freely and so they need to benefit the community the same way, either as library stock to be enjoyed for years to come, or being circulated to the wider community as free books.