Go to your local library and walk up and down these fiction section . . . or a non-fiction section, doesn’t matter. Unless your library is brand spanking new, the shelf copies of the BEST books are the ones in the WORST condition. To a bookseller this is an anathema but to a librarian this is a ‘good’ thing. Local librarians aren’t booksellers or archivists their job is to CIRCULATE the material INSIDE the book. Road wear is to be expected. A book’s popularity is judge by it’s mileage.
Over the years when I am feeling financially flush, (which hasn’t been as often as I’d like) I have donated new copies of classic books to my library’s collection. Three Musketeers, Portrait of a Lady and most recently the Chosen. Don’t confuse donating a book for the collection, with the books that are donated to be SOLD to BUY books for the collection. If you are donating a book FOR the collection don’t expect a lot of thanks at first, most people just give money to buy books with or copies of books they have written. The library may just think you are a nutter.
Stroll the library shelves and make a few notes about which titles that are in the worst shape that you would like to donate. Then as you go about your routine buying and selling books when you come across the titles inexpensively and they are in acceptable shape you can pick them up for the donation. (this is a tax deductible activity kids) It should be VG- to VG+ trade edition hardcover, preferably with a dust jacket – a book club edition only if no hardcover is produced – remember it’s gotta suffer those slings and arrows outrageous fortune. Most libraries aren’t hung up on NEWness, the classic titles we are talking about aren’t ALWAYS available in hardcover new. I say MOST because I remember a time when librarians told me to my face they could only accept NEW books into the collection. I doubt with all the budget cuts one would say that now.
Then you have to track down the librarian in charge of that section and practically HAND the book to them. You can hand them their own copy at the same time to make your point. In my experience they have been profusely greatful and I get a ‘donated by’ bookplate in the front of the book for my troubles. (this is actually a sneaky way of advertising if you get them to put your bookstore name on it.)
What have we learned? the library gets a book, the patrons get to continue reading classic literature without having pages fall out, I get a tax deduction and a smug sense of self satisfaction. And a good day was had by all.
Here endeth the lesson.