Today we purchased almost 100 worlds.
You might call them books, but come on. Every single one opens up a new world to us.
But we’re not keeping them. We’re giving them away. (Well, most of them, anyway.)
Friday morning we entered a house of worlds. If you look for it online, you’ll find it as the Dollar Book Swap. If you’re ever in the Dayton, Ohio area, you should check it out. It’s exactly what it says: One dollar, one book. Nothing more expensive in this warehouse of wonders.
The kids were off of school for… dubious reasons. (The temp was fine, there was no precipitation, and the roads were fine. I guess the administrator wanted a three-day weekend? I dunno.) So we packed up the van and drove the hour and a half. Each kid got ten dollars – and here, that meant ten books. They went to town and achieved some good buys.
Meanwhile, my Bride and I pillaged as best we could. You see, we enjoy adopting school libraries. There’s a new counselor at the kids’ school who’s trying to build up a library. She’s about to get about a hundred fifty books from us.
Because that’s how we roll.
(If you do the math, yes, we had already purchased about fifty books for her before this pillaging quest.)
We’d talked to this counselor to find out what she was looking for: Books that teach kids lessons, for any age that the school caters to. A few fun books. A few popular books. Not a problem!
We’ve learned this: When adopting libraries, find out what the library’s looking for. Is this a Harry Potter zone, or do we avoid those kind of books? Are they missing books for third-grade boys or fifth-grade girls? Do they need fiction or nonfiction? Our goal here isn’t to give what we want, but what the library can use.
The danger, of course, is that often enough we’re buying books we’ve never read. My Bride will check out the AR score to make sure it’s the appropriate reading level, and we’ll read the backs of the books and a quick glance at reviews (but let’s be honest – when we buy this much at a time, we don’t always know what’s going on in a book). Reviews can be misleading, though. We do our best to match requests, and for that reason we often stick with known quantities when donating – where, even if we haven’t read the book, we know the author’s reputation if nothing else.
We’ve done this enough to know that volunteers stepping in and saying, “We’re going to help. Tell us what you want,” are often welcomed, especially if what they bring is actually of good quality. (We make sure that the books are near-new quality. Anything less doesn’t make our stacks.) Librarians and teachers delight in surprises that are good surprises.
So if you’re a reader, let me encourage you to share your love by helping purchase quality books for school libraries. If you’ve got kids in school, approach your school librarian. If not, contact administration to see if they’d welcome the offer.
But – and I cannot stress this enough – Listen to what they need. Do not buy these cute stories you had growing up and obviously everyone else will enjoy. Look, tastes change, and what you enjoyed may not even be appropriate for schools now. Doesn’t mean you have bad taste; it just means that the librarians know what works for their particular clientele. So ask first. If they want your help, they’ll let you know. And then ask what they’re looking for. And only buy that. If they’re looking for nonfiction, it doesn’t matter how good that fiction book is – don’t get it. At the least, ask if they can use it, and don’t get angry if the answer is ‘no.’ If the point is helping students, you won’t help them by forcing your tastes on them.
However, if you do that, you’ll find a lot of joy in generosity in sharing worlds with others.
Personally, one of my favorite things is when we show up with several boxes of quality books that match what they were looking for. Often it’s disbelief. After all, they’re usually expecting a small box of books at most.
But that’s not how we roll.
We’re bringing a bunch of worlds to our kids’ school, and it’s a lot of fun doing it!