Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:  It’s a way of life at the library. Sure, we’re serious about minimizing waste as we go about our jobs on a daily basis. But the mantra also applies to the way we manage the books and other materials in our collection and how we fulfill our central mission of providing information and promoting literacy and learning. Whenever possible, we strive to give materials a second life after they leave our shelves.
When it comes to the collection, it’s actually more like “Renew” than “Reduce.” Multiple copies of former bestsellers, for example, are regularly taken out of circulation as their popularity wanes, supplanted by the latest in-demand releases. Nonfiction works are replaced routinely with updated editions and titles that reflect current and emerging issues and changing tastes and trends. We call this process “weeding,” a particularly fitting term if you think of the library as a garden – a place that brings delight and bears fruit only with thoughtful planning and consistent maintenance.

Here’s where the garden analogy falls apart a bit, however, because most of the books withdrawn from the collection are far from weeds. Some, admittedly, have either been too well loved or have become too outdated to pass on, and these are sent to the recycling bin (the compost heap, if you will, of the library-as-garden world). We apply the same standards to donated materials, adding some to the circulating collection and recycling others.
But the vast majority of withdrawn or donated-but-not-circulated items are in perfectly acceptable condition (or better), and that’s where “Reuse” comes in. The most visible example of this reuse is the Book Cellar, the library’s used book shop, which is located in the basement level of the Main Library and is open to the public every week on Tuesdays from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. and Wednesdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. At the Book Cellar we offer withdrawn and donated materials – adult, teen and children’s books, books on CD, music CDs and DVDs – almost all at prices of $1.00 or less (and magazines, VHS and cassette tapes are free!). In addition, all of our locations have book-sale shelves where items can be purchased anytime the library is open. We can think of no better way of extending the life of books than passing them on to members of our community at such a great value!

A small number of withdrawn or donated books provide extra bang for the buck in terms of return on investment. These are titles with especially high resale value that we sell online in partnership with Better World Books, a so-called “triple bottom line” enterprise that incorporates social and environmental responsibility into its business model by donating books and funds to literacy initiatives in the U.S. and abroad. The proceeds from books we sell through BWB are used for special collection-related purchases, such as book kits.
And there are other ways we extend the life – and thereby stretch the value — of withdrawn and donated books. Some are used as giveaways at outreach events; others are taken to homebound patrons and residents of nursing homes. Subject to availability, the library provides books to Boone County teachers for classroom use. In past years we have given books to the Sons of the American Revolution, which distributed them to Veterans Administration hospitals.
If you have donated books or other materials to BCPL, we thank you for helping to sustain and grow these efforts. The library is a bountiful garden, and it’s our mission to
share it.

Come visit me in the Book Cellar!
Main Library Basement
Tuesdays 4-7 p.m.
Wednesdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cash, checks or Library Bucks accepted

Jenny Walsh relocated to Boone County from New York 11 years ago. A graduate of Gettysburg College, she has worked for Boone County Public Library since 2011.