Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Library Discards — End of the Line? Or not?

Images obtained from iStockPhoto.comAs genealogists, we cherish historical information about our ancestors — especially when they’re not politicians, celebrities or otherwise renowned. Several years ago I began harvesting books and ephemera that contain lists of people associated with groups and activities. Along the way, I’ve found that some of these great resources have actually been library discards. So why did these books get discarded?
Most libraries need to get rid of, or “cull”, books at the same rate that they acquire them; otherwise, they would run out of space. They usually sell these books to the public, or in lots to dealer, to raise funds for additional acquisitions and library services. The librarian must face a difficult task — which old books to discard to make space for the new ones?

I would love to see more (non-dealer) outlets for libraries to have for discarding books of a historical nature. With a quick look online, I did find Better World Books, an organization that helps libraries sell off their discards. Unfortunately, included in their listing of “What type of books/materials does Better World Books not accept”, are telephone books, tax documents, government documents, directories OR any damaged books/materials not suitable for sale.

The State of Rhode Island web site has a page about “Selling library discards and donations on eBay,” so I guess it is possible to purchase these discarded items directly, although I don’t believe any of the books I’ve obtained via auctions have been from libraries. (As an aside, they mention a cool website to help determine what to charge for a book: www.addall.com)

I will probably post something to the Librarians Serving Genealogists mailing list to see if they have any ideas on how to best channel discarded historical items. It’s a great list, by the way, for understanding the issues and challenges reference librarians face.

For any librarians reading this post, Genealogy Today will gladly reimburse you for the costs involved with packing and mailing discarded books to us. We’re looking for books with lists of names. Examples include masonic rosters, club and society member lists, church directories and school yearbooks or catalogues. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 911, New Providence, NJ 07974. Please address the packages to “Genealogy Today, Dept. LD” and include a note stating your packing costs. PLUS, if the book does not meet our needs and I am able to auction it off, you’ll get 100% of the sale price (less ebay/Paypal fees).

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