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Library takes novel approach to donations, sales

I’m astonished by the amazing number of donated books offered at the Durango Public Library book sales held several times a year. What is the real reason that these donated books are not used to stock the shelves? I recently heard that the library examines donated books page by page before deciding to keep them, and the library simply does not have time to do this. Perhaps potential book donors would wish to donate their books to a library that happily accepts books to stock their shelves. – Confused Book Donor

You’re right – a staggering number of books are donated to the library, and many of the donated books are not stocked for circulation, but sold.

But that’s really, really good. So pull up a chair and let Action Line tell you a story.

Once upon a time in strange, far-away land called Durango, there was a magical place called Durango Public Library. Everyone loved the library.

The people of Durango also had lots of books. “We should share our books,” they said. So they began giving them to the library.

The library became inundated with books of all sorts, some great books, but some not so good.

The dedicated but small library staff looked through the donations and cherry-picked the best.

Many venerable volumes were stocked in the shelves, which brought much happiness to the 377,086 library visitors who checked out 407,024 items between January and November 2012, according to the most current data available.

However, there were just as many dubious and duplicate duds, especially The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

More than 200 million copies of The Da Vinci Code were sold worldwide in the last decade.

Apparently, most of them ended up at the library.

But that’s another story.

The surplus books then became a task for one of the nicest, unsung group of volunteers ever, the Friends of the Durango Public Library.

The Friends categorized and alphabetized the books, of which there were many.

Books were boxed and hauled to a large storage unit awaiting placement at the Friends bookstore in the library or for the next big sale at which books were sold by the pound.

Dealing with Durango’s castoff literature was a huge task. But the Friends persevered happily, knowing that lots of books would be checked out or find a new home. Even a decade-old, dog-eared Dan Brown novel.

“We welcome all donations!” said Nancy Peake, president of the Friends.

“Your already-read, gently used books that the Friends sell provide funds for the library to purchase more new books and e-books, summer programs for children and teens, featured speakers for the library’s Literary Festival, computers for the children’s room, business databases and more.”

You see, the Friends were the fairy godparents of the library, and book donations recharged the Friends’ magic wand. It was a wand that made money magically appear!

As with any far-away kingdom, there were ogres and hobgoblins. In Durango, a few unpleasant creeps considered the library to be some kind of thrift store or Dumpster.

They “donated” moldy paperbacks, yellowed computer manuals, books with broken spines, high school annuals, obsolete encyclopedias, stained textbooks and old magazines.

Some donation boxes included many strange items, including grocery receipts, toothpaste, live spiders, leaves, spoons, unopened cigarette packs, combs, mouse droppings, expired bonds, birthday cards, family photos, watches, grocery lists, dirty socks and senior pictures.

(Yes, Friends volunteers found all of the above contemptible contributions sullying the stacks.)

So a decree went out. “Let us have book donations on Mondays and Thursdays only,” said Andy White, library director. “This will enable us to schedule staff and volunteers to have a more efficient and better intake process.”

The new procedure worked! There were lots of great books to stock or sell, and fewer heinous or problematic items to deal with.

The library could resume doing what it does best: helping all who need help, and the Friends could support the library even more.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you remember that Action Line serves on the Library Advisory Board, so he is unapologetically supportive of the library and the Friends of the Library.