Like many libraries, the Paul V. Galvin Library at the Illinois Institute of Technology receives more donated books than can possibly be added to the collection. Many of the donated titles are fiction and while we do have a leisure reading collection, only a small fraction of the books are of interest to the library. As a matter of policy books that are not selected for the library’s collections are sold to dealers, offered to other libraries, or donated to charities. Even with those options available, the backlog of donated materials continued to grow
After the library received an influx of approximately 400 donated books, primarily fiction, the Reference and Instruction Services team members brainstormed other ways of using the books. With the end of the spring 2023 semester mere weeks away, they decided to set up a book giveaway area using donated books that weren’t eligible to be added to the collection. Often, students, faculty, and staff are looking for books to take with them for the summer. Books that sometimes don’t make it back to the library in the fall. The giveaway books didn’t need to be returned so if they were left on a beach, in a hotel room, or on an airplane, the library wouldn't need to replace it.
An unused bookcase was cleaned and moved to the lobby outside the security gate. By placing the bookcase outside the gates, and adding signage, we made it clear to the patrons that these books were free to be taken and kept forever, unlike items in the circulating collection that needed to be checked out and returned.
This free book project is a good example of a low to no-cost project with high impact. Patrons loved the idea and immediately started helping themselves to the books. Staff involvement was minimal after the initial evaluation of the collection. All we had to do was restock the case once or twice a week. The project has been so successful that it has continued into the fall semester and students are already helping themselves to free books as they eagerly plan for winter break.
Today's blog post was written by Nichole Novak, Head of Reference and Instruction Services at Illinois Institute of Technology