[Sca-cooks] Donating books to libraries, was Re: Cookbook Collection Going to Penn...a question...

Huette von Ahrens ahrenshav at yahoo.com
Thu Aug 28 10:16:25 PDT 2008

Having been an acquisitions librarian for many years, the answer is "You can't."  Most public libraries have extreme problems with shelf space for all the new books coming out and budget limitations, not only for acquiring books both new and old, but also for staff time in going over such gifts to make sure that they are wanted, needed and in good enough shape to put on a shelf.  Unless you are a well-known person or scholar, 99% of all donations from people like Selene will just go straight into book sales, if the library runs such, or just get tossed into the trash.  Collections like Julia Child's or Esther Aresty's will stay whole and go into Special Collections because there are people and scholars who will want to know what they read, what inspired them, etc.  But that doesn't apply to the average person.  Unless you collect rare books [books that are 100+ years old, or have limited runs, or are signed by a well-known author], your "treasure" won't
 necessarily be perceived as such.  It would be better for Selene to donate her books to a special collection library that specializes in cookbooks than to donate them to a general public library that has no idea what she has.  If I were her, I would donate them to UC Santa Barbara which has a large collection of cookbooks and a special library based on the books they received from Julia Child.  Or to a local culinary school, where her broad range of cookbooks would be better appreciated.  Otherwise, she should specify in her will to have her collection sold to a specialist like Janet Jarvitz and have the proceeds donated to a charity.  But if she is determined to donate her books to LA City Library, then she should call them first and ask what their needs are and what their donation policies are.

Also, for those who are thinking of donating books to public libraries, please only donate hard bound books, if you want to see them on their shelves.  And make sure that these books are in tip top shape.  Soft bound books have a very short shelf life and usually have to be rebound in order to withstand the rigors of constant use and that costs a library a lot of money to do.  

Public libraries very rarely have in depth collections of any subject, because they have limited budgets, limited shelf space and a constant request for the latest titles.  University and special collection libraries have bigger budgets because they have a need to get information to their patrons and don't have the view that just because the book is old it is out of date or obsolete.  In reality, public libraries are the redheaded step child of the city/county/state budgets.  They are the last funded if there is a budget surplus and the first cut if there is a budget shortfall.  University libraries on the other hand are a necessity to a university if they wish to remain accredited or get accreditation.  Special libraries are either part of universities or have private funding to remain in existence.  For those of you who have been getting a lot of culinary books through ILL, there is a very good reason that the majority of books you are seeking to
 borrow come from academic or special libraries, rather than other public libraries.  And that has a lot to do with funding. 

So, Stefan, in answer to your question about your general medieval books, I would donate them to a university library that has a good medieval history department or will them to a friend who you know would appreciate them. 


--- On Wed, 8/27/08, Stefan li Rous <StefanliRous at austin.rr.com> wrote:
> So how do you keep such a donated book collection from
> simply showing  
> up in the next public library book sale?
> Stefan
> (Whose been wondering what to do with my more general
> medieval books  
> collection after I can no longer use it)


More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list