Library as Dumping Ground or Is It Art?

When I came in to work this morning, there was a toppling stack of cast-off books, binders, pamphlets, etc. on my desk. Lots of stuff. At a quick glance, none of it looks very promising.

People regularly clean out their offices and anything that looks somewhat informationish ends up on my desk, chair or booktruck, often without any indication of who left it. Sometimes people will “gift me” with books that are completely unrelated to anything remotely associated with law and I can tell by the looks on their faces that they think they’re doing me a favour. Most of the time I know they’re trying to disguise the truth of the matter, which is that they don’t want the “perfectly good” book either but can’t bear the other options. There’s always the library to take it. They like books, don’t they?

As often happens, I was too busy to deal with today’s donated stack and I expect the same tomorrow. But, needing my work space, I started shifting “the stack” to the cupboard where I’ve been putting other material that has been dumped in the library. Oops. The cupboard is full. No room at the inn.

I now have a monster on my hands and will be scheduling some time to deal with it. Sometimes it’s hard to get ahead.

Does anyone have any tips and tricks to help manage all the donations, most of which aren’t of any value? Should I attempt a book sculpture for the reception area and, in a sense, “give back” to the firm? If you can’t inspire me maybe you can make us all laugh!


  1. Maybe a book sale? Part of your United Way campaign?

    As you describe Heather, I think this is an age old problem for Libraries. I can’t imagine how many donations public libraries receive. Not that there’s anything wrong with donating to the local PL, but I would personally only give them items in ‘pristine’ condition.

    Probably best to be ruthless. Pick out the ‘gems’ that meet your collection mandate, make a pile of the best & well conditioned items for your public library, and recycle the others.

  2. There is a myth that every book has its reader, but that probably hasn’t been true since Gutenberg’s grandkids took over the family press. Can you send them to the Canadian Book Exchange?

  3. Yes, we keep a box and, once full, send it off to the Book Exchange. We have also received some old items from them to fill gaps in our collection, so we like to think it is a useful service!

    That “myth” is one of Ranganathan’s five laws of library science:

    – Books are for use.
    – Every reader, his book.
    – Every book, its reader.
    – Save the time of the reader.
    – A library is a growing organism.

    It does, admittedly, make it more difficult to throw out books! The Book Exchange does help our consciences in this respect.

  4. Thanks for the suggestions and the commiserating! I’m going to forget about my cupboard of “gifts” for the weekend and focus on more pressing matters such as turkey and the Rolling Stones! “I have a stack of books – I want to paint them black …”.