Five ways to approach downsizing a book collection

Five ways to approach downsizing a book collection

When Book Driver started its Chicago book donation program, it was something of an afterthought. While we knew there were a lot of used books available in the market, like most people, we didn’t give it much thought beyond that. People didn’t know what to do with the books, so they just gave them to us. 

That was until we started working with people and realized that it could become quite an emotional journey for book lovers to pick and choose which books to keep and which to let go. 

Here are the five ways we advise people to approach this task. 

  1. Plan to make three passes through your collection. This is based on working with over 1000 people and organizations. This will give you time to remove books you’re sure about while creating mental room for other books you’re not.
  2. Think about the space certain books take up. Hardcovers and coffee table books take up more room than paperbacks so being choosy with bigger books might mean removing fewer books from your collection overall if that is your goal. 
  3. Books degrade in storage both in terms of physical condition and intellectual value. We can not overstate this. This makes it harder to get rid of them in the long-run.
  4. Be open to who wants them, not where you think they should go. This will help the maximum amount of books avoid a landfill. By this I mean that the books might be used by a myriad of organizations or individuals. In our experience most books will find a new owner but it’s probably not going to be your children, your local library or your former graduate school. 
  5. Some may have value but expect pennies on the dollar. Powell’s, Half Price Books, Myopic and Ravenswood Books are just a few places in the city and suburbs that offer cash and/or credit for your books. And as you will probably buy more books down the line, a little credit at these places never hurt anyone.

Books are special. Know that you are not alone if it ends up being more difficult than you thought to give them up. That’s been surprising to us, and heartening. While we will toss old linens, clothes, furniture or paper products quite easily, there is something about books that people find hard to just throw away.

Of course if you need help we offer a free pickup of books (and other media related items like vinyl, DVDs and games).  Check out our Chicago page.