Disturbed after finding discarded books in the Westport Library’s dumpster, alert reader Dylan Stableford recently wrote to “06880”:
The first time I noticed some library books in there I thought, that’s odd. Why wouldn’t they sell them, or donate them to Goodwill or a used book store? But figured it was just a lazy employee/one-time thing.
The next time, there were more books. And the next time, even more — sometimes 2/3 full.
These were not old and overworn books. Some were essentially new. I even grabbed two (Jon Stewart’s “America: The Book” hardcover, and a nice paperback copy of “In Cold Blood”). Yesterday, the dumpster was full.
I asked someone at the front desk about it. They said they didn’t know but took my information and would get back to me. No one did.
My question is: Why? Why not donate them to, say, a school library in town? Or Goodwill? Or store them for an eventual book sale? Seems like an operational breakdown (at best) or laziness (at worst).
I asked Westport Library Bill Harmer for an answer. He quickly said:
Thank you for sharing your concerns with us regarding our book recycling process.
While we cannot specifically address the books mentioned, it’s likely that the books found in the dumpster were those declined by our dedicated book sale volunteer team.
We are truly appreciative of the generous donations of thousands of gently used, good-condition books, which are ideal for resale. We meticulously sort, price and store tens of thousands of these books for our book sale events, and the Westport Book Shop.
Thousands of books are available at regular Westport Library sales. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Unfortunately, we receive unsuitable books on a daily basis. These may be too damaged, exposed to humid conditions resulting in mold or mildew, filled with excessive margin notes or underlinings, or carry a strong odor of cigarette smoke.
Occasionally, even books that appear to be in good condition may have absorbed unpleasant odors due to storage with other books in less favorable conditions.
Furthermore, our book donation center operates from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. Despite clear signage urging patrons not to leave books outdoors when the center is closed, books left outside overnight or on Sundays are exposed to the elements and must be recycled, as we advertise.
Our book sale has a clearly defined policy, accessible on the Westport Book Sale Ventures website, which outlines materials we do not accept, including most encyclopedias, test-prep books over 3 years old, Time-Life series books, and magazines. Occasionally donors, after having their contributions declined for these reasons, may unfortunately choose to improperly dispose of books in our dumpsters.
It’s vital to understand that the books withdrawn from our Westport Library collection are removed for various reasons, such as damage, non-circulation, outdated content and various other factors.
When a book is no longer in use due to damage, outdated information, or low demand, we prioritize responsible and environmentally friendly disposal methods. Recycling is one of those methods, helping us minimize our environmental impact. Our goal is to maintain a relevant and high-quality collection for our patrons. Recycling enables us to make space for new and valuable resources.
Stacks downstairs, at the Westport Library.
Also of note: We send books that are no longer in frequent circulation but are in good condition to Better World Books, which sells them to support educational, literacy, and other programs. Better World Books also donates books to charity. We get a small amount of money back when we send books to them.
Transporting these materials to Goodwill or other charities poses logistical challenges. Unfortunately, we lack the capacity to deliver them to alternative locations. Moreover, these organizations typically lack the resources, including staff and facilities, to manage the collection and processing of these books. Even when we extend invitations to charities to collect books for free at the end of our sales, very few organizations take us up on the offer.
We hope this explanation sheds light on our book management practices. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any further questions or concerns.
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