Can't Give 'Em Away

emptyshelves     I just spent a frustrating half hour on the telephone to libraries. First my local one, a piss-poor ghost of a place with sadly depleted shelves. Perhaps everything’s out on loan? I don’t think so.

The reason for my call  –  my house is groaning under the weight of brand new copies of my books, hardback, paperback, LARGE PRINT, audio. I thought I’d donate one of each. Admittedly there’d be something in it for me. I earn a tiny fee each time someone borrows one of my books. But it was not my principal motive. I just want them out of my way.

However my local library can’t take donations because they have no cataloguing facilities. So I thought okay, the Central Library will be the place. Wrong.

The Central Library said it was unlikely they’d take my donationss to put on their shelves because the cost of cataloguing new books is higher than the cost of buying them. Hunh? What kind of cataloguing system are they running? And anyway I wasn’t selling I was offering to donate. The librarian said the most likely thing they’d do with donated books is give them away. But I can do that myself without schlepping down to the gruesome Ilac Centre on even more gruesome Henry Street. There’s a charity shop at the end of our road where I can give them away. In fact that’s where I’m going right now.

So that, dear readers, is one of the reasons your library shelves aren’t what they used to be.  Financial restraints have taken their toll too (all the more reason to accept donations, I’d have thought) and politically correct culling, particularly from children’s libraries. But what a dead-head defeatist attitude. And you know I’d have been a lot more forgiving if the librarians I spoke to today had displayed the slightest hint of regret or frustration. That’s what happens to you when you work long enough in the public sector. It sucks the oomph out of you.

Surplus books. Crisp and never been opened. Can’t give them away. Well actually that’s all I can do.



  1. Lucy Mitchell on February 13, 2014 at 8:31 am

    what charity shop? Is there a copy of The Man For The Job? I’d love to buy that and haven’t been able to find a copy. I tried to give books to my library too and was turned away. They don’t need new books apparently. Oh well. It was nice of you to try.

  2. Alex Ferguson on February 14, 2014 at 9:08 am

    What a horrible experience. And what a shame you don’t live in my local authority.

    I wouldn’t just have accepted your books and catalogued them myself. I would have asked you when you are available to do a reading and if you have enough copies of the same book to make up a set for the reading groups.

  3. David Moger on February 15, 2014 at 5:10 am

    There is a difference between accepting out of date non fiction, such as the 1930’s era Encylopedia I was once offered, to accepting new fiction which will add to your shelves and soon earn its place in your library by being borrowed many times. As for the cost of cataloguing, these days cataloguing a copy of a title that is already in the system (and I am sure your local library authority has at least one copy of each of your books), is as simple as scanning a couiple of barcodes. You don’t even have to type in the publication details.

    I think your local library have definitely missed a trick, and i wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed by Alex, above.

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