Thursday, January 31, 2013

You can’t judge a book donation by its container - Library: Bins are diverting materials from our store

As published in the Record Journal, Wednesday January 30, 2013

By Eric Vo
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2235

WALLINGFORD – The Wallingford Public Library has noted a decline in donations to its used book store. While other factors may figure in the drop, the co-manager of the store is blaming collection bins outside the town’s high schools.

Peggy Zambrano said that, for the first time since the used book store opened, “we have had weeks where our donations table has been literally empty.”

The bins, which don’t belong to the library and were placed at Lyman Hall and Sheehan High schools by the town, ask residents to donate books, CDs and DVDs.

People can donate the same materials to the library’s used book store, but only what is considered “gently used” is put up for sale, Zambrano said. Everything else goes to an outside company, which pays the library.

Zambrano said people have told her that they’ve been putting books into the bins expecting that they would be delivered to the library.

“There have been at least 10 people who have come to the library asking about the bins, and saying they thought they had to go to the library because they were full,” she said. However, the materials being dropped in the bins went to The Reading Tree, an organization that provided books to nonprofit organizations. However, operations at The Reading Tree ended on Aug. 1 and the donations are now being handled by Discover Books.

Discover Books redistributes some books to those in need, but also resells them through online retailers, such as Amazon and eBay. Most of the books that are donated to the organization are children’s books, which are then given to nonprofits, schools and low income communities, said Clare Maher, head of marketing at Discover Books. If books are not in good enough condition to be resold or redistributed, Maher said the organization makes sure they are properly recycled.

The bins outside the high schools are still branded with The Reading Tree logo. Maher said efforts are being made across the country to rebrand the bins to eliminate any confusion as to where the materials are going.

Zambrano said she spoke with town officials about her concerns.

According to Board of Education member Chet Miller, the collection bins actually are benefiting the town. Miller said the town receives credits for the donated materials collected from the bins because it’s “keeping trash out of landfills.” The credits give the town a greater chance of receiving grants related to disposal and recycling.Miller also said the materials dropped into the collection bins aren’t in good enough condition to re-sell through the library’s used book store.

“I don’t think there is a real correlation to the donations of the books to the library,” he said. “I’ve seen what comes out of the bins. Most of what is going in there is pretty bad shape.”

While she doesn’t necessarily want the town to remove the collection bins, Zombrano said she wants to clarify where donations are going.

“Now a person can decide where they want to donate,” she said. “Whether they choose the bins or the (used book store), the town or the library will benefit.”

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