It never ceases to amaze me how sentimental people get about their books. I’ve been reminded of this these past few days as patrons have been dropping off donations for our upcoming booksale.
Because of the volume of donations that have been arriving, I’ve been tasked with checking the donations before we accept them. Why me? Well, as Sharie my co-worker said; “You’re a hard-ass, you’ll tell them where to go! We’re (indicating she and Nancy) just too nice.”
You don’t even want to know what I’ve been finding in these boxes. As an example of the book-y-badness, last year I got to the bottom of a particularly nasty box of old books to find a collection of old used Kleenex and a bedpan. Lovely. I also had an older couple come in with a heavy medium sized box. They set it down on the counter explaining they were done with the books and left before I could check the box. I opened it to find a massive collection of sex books from the 1970’s to present. Of course, we had to thoroughly examine them before deciding what to do with them. ;) In case you were wondering, body hair was definitely ‘in’ in the ‘70’s.
For the most part, people just come in with boxes upon boxes of really old books they’ve cleaned out of their basements. They pack up these boxes and think (cue thought bubble) “What should I do with these wonderful books I’ve known and loved these past 20 years?” Then it hits them: “The Library! The library has books!” and they bring them to us. They come through our front door and proudly proclaim “I’ve brought you some donations!” and they smile (they’re so please with themselves). Not only have they managed to clean out their garage, but they’ve found a new home for their beloved books. Because you can’t just throw out a book! Bad people throw out books! Fascists, Communists and Nazis throw out books!! No, no, you just can’t throw out a book.
I meet them at the counter (hard-ass in tow) and sweetly thank them for their consideration, but explain that we need to take a look at the offerings before we accept them. “Oh.” they say, taken aback. “Well they’re all really good books.”. I explain that we can only accept items that are in very good condition and fairly recently printed. They start to shift their feet. “There’s some beautiful encyclopedias in there- I’m sure someone would want them! My little Susie used them all the time when she was a kid. She’s a Doctor now!”
And so I pour over the boxes, and make two very big piles. Actually, I should say I make two piles and one is very big. That would be the pile full of encyclopedias, 10 year old textbooks, tech support manuals from 1996, coffee table books commemorating the marriage of Prince Charles to Princess Diana and ratty old tomes so faded they have a better tan than I do.
They gaze upon this paper tower of piza and I brake the news that we cannot take these items. The arguing ensues. "But this Atlas is still good! It's topographical- AND colour coded!" "Unfortunately," I reply "it contains a few pages we just can't use- namely the ones with the U.S.S.R, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia to name a few." They continue "But the National Geographics are still good- look at all the pictures!" I have to let them down by saying that we just don't have alot of call for magazines older than our Librarians.
I let them argue. I counter their arguments. If they still object to my objections I give them one final option...
"Well," I say "I can clearly see you want to get rid of these quite badly. Tell you what; I'll throw 'em out for you."
"*gasp* Throw them OUT? You mean, like, in the... GARBAGE?!"
"Actually, I can probably put most of these in our recycling bin."
Red-faced and eyes brimming with tears they quietly pack up their musty, dingy, crappy old books and continue on their quest to find them a new home. Godspeed.