If you need to make a little extra space on your shelves, or if you’ve decided to Marie Kondo your library, you might be wondering what to do with all those books that you don’t really need anymore.
Rather than letting them end up in a landfill, there are lots of great charities and organizations looking for book donations.
How Can You Donate Old Books?
There are plenty of wonderful second (or third or fourth) homes for the books you don’t need anymore. If you’re short on time, you can contact your local Salvation Army or Goodwill to see if they’d be happy to accept your delivery.
Below are more details on how to do that along with 10 other options, including charities, libraries, and thrift shops that would be happy to take your old reads.
1. Local Thrift Shops
Thrift shops sell a lot more than great clothes for a bargain—many are also looking for lightly used books. Check with your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other smaller thrift shop to see what their current needs are and to check their guidelines for donating used books.
Local schools can also be a great home for your used books, especially if you have some children’s books to give away. Contact your local public schools to see if their libraries or classrooms are in need of some gently used reads.
Books provide much more than just a pastime for the incarcerated—they provide a gateway to the outside world, and a way to prepare for a successful life after re-entry.
Many prisoners who are soon to be released also study for their GEDs or more advanced degrees, so they can make a smoother transition and find quality jobs.
Books that are in particular demand include:
- Law books (less than 5 years old)
- ESL books
- Popular fiction
- Books in Spanish
- Test prep books
- Books about chess
- Drawing and art books
Check our organizations like the Prison Book Program for more guidelines, as some prisons have specific rules, like paperbacks only, and other restrictions.
4. Little Free Library
You might also consider giving a few books to your local Little Free Library (you can find the nearest one here). Little Free Library is the world’s largest book-sharing movement that seeks to encourage reading, especially in areas where books may be more sparse.
5. Retirement Homes
Retirement homes often provide reading materials for their residents. However, always call beforehand to see if there is an actual need or interest to ensure that your donation is not a burden.
6. Kids Need to Read
Kids Need to Read is an organization that provides books to underfunded schools, libraries, and literary programs across the United States, especially those that serve disadvantaged children. They accept books that are “like new” in condition, with no visible damage or markings.
7. Reader to Reader
Reader to Reader is another great charitable organization that is dedicated to providing books to under-resourced school libraries and public libraries. They’ve provided inner-city schools, Native American reservations, poor rural towns, and many others with access to quality books.
8. Books for Africa
Books for Africa collects, sorts, ships, and distributes books to students of all ages in Africa. Books can be mailed to their warehouse in Atlanta, Georgia, or dropped off in person at their Atlanta and St. Paul locations.
It costs the organization 50 cents to ship each book to Africa, so you might also consider making a financial donation to cover the cost of shipping your books (though it’s not required).
9. Books for Soldiers
Books for Soldiers collects gently-used books to members of the U.S. military, as well as veterans and military families. Any deployed member can request a book, DVD, video game, and other materials from their site.
Click here for detailed instructions on how to begin the shipping process (if you volunteer, you’ll be shipping books directly to the soldiers requesting them).
10. Better World Books
Better World Books collects and sells books online to donate books and fund literacy programs across the globe. And every time you purchase a book from BWB, they donate a book to someone in need. You can learn more about how to donate books or funds here.
Freecycle is a grassroots, nonprofit movement dedicated to reusing goods and keeping junk out of landfills. They can help you find locals who are interested in taking your old books (and any other stuff you’re looking to get rid of).
Can You Donate Books to a Library?
Yes! However, it’s always advisable and courteous to call before delivering your books. They may be in need of only certain genres or recent releases, and many libraries don’t have the time or resources to sort through boxes of used books.
However, it’s always good to ask and offer a description of the types of books you’re looking to donate. They might be just what your local library was looking for.
What Can You Do With Old Encyclopedias?
Encyclopedias might be a little outdated thanks to the internet, but that doesn’t mean the only place for them is in a landfill (in fact, you should avoid sending anything there whenever possible!)
Many of the charitable organizations mentioned above could be great homes for your encyclopedias and reference books (including Books for Africa, Better World Books, and even school libraries).
Where to Donate Books
Whichever option you choose, sending your books off to another loving home is a great way to tidy up your living space while doing some good for the world.
If you’re looking to make a little extra cash, be sure to check out our tips on where to sell used books. One reader’s trash is another reader’s treasure!
Do you know of any other places to donate books that we didn’t mention? Share them in the comments below!