Library group sees sharp drop in book donations

Volunteer suspects charity bins 'popping up like mushrooms' responsible for decline

A volunteer with Friends of the Vancouver Public Library suspects the blue book bins scattered across the city are at least in part to blame for increasingly fewer donations to the non-profit organization, which raises funds for programs such as the VPL's Writer in Residence and Writing and Book Camp.

Karen Cannon told the Courier while she has no proof the proliferation of blue book bins across the city is contributing to a drop in donations to Friends of the VPL, she believes a connection makes sense.

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"The number of bins is growing exponentially and the number of donations we're receiving is dropping," said Cannon, who supervises the sorting and pricing of books and audiovisual items donated for the book sale. "Those bins are popping up like mushrooms."

Friends of the VPL is in the midst of its donation drive for the sale held annually in October. Cannon said while at this point in the drive the organization would typically have between 18 to 20 pallets of books, CDs and DVDs, it currently has 12.

"Last year we had a good 25 per cent fewer donations and it looks like the same thing is happening now," said Cannon.

The Courier recently checked out a blue book bin in an alley near East 41st Avenue and Main Street, and it was packed almost to the top with hundreds of books. A Courier story published earlier this month noted the bins are owned by Thrift Recycling Management, a for-profit company based in Tacoma, Wash., which sells about 25 per cent of its donations online for profit at retail websites such as Amazon, eBay, Alibris and Barnes & Noble. Another 25 per cent of the books, such as old textbooks and encyclopedias, are pulped, while in B.C., the remainder are donated to classroom libraries and literacy programs through the Reading Tree, the non-profit arm of Thrift Recycling Management.

Cannon said it might be time for Friends of the VPL to start advertising to boost donations. The group has raised more than $550,000 for library programs since 1995.

"We do what we can, but maybe we need to sell ourselves more," said Cannon, who said residents can donate books year-round at their branch of the library.

The organization also runs a small shop out of the main library branch downtown, where books, CDs and DVDs can be dropped. She said a recent donation of books included a 1923 edition of poetry by John Donne, which had been signed out of the San Francisco Public Library.

"We emailed them and they said yes, they wanted it back," said Cannon. "They asked when it was last due back and that was June 1948. It wasn't a discard, because it wasn't stamped, it just hadn't been returned."

With the exception of encyclopedias and older textbooks, all books, CDs and DVDs are welcome, but there's a strong need for children's books, house, garden and cook books.

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Donations are being accepted at the Oakridge, Dunbar and Renfrew library branches during regular hours. Donations should be marked with "Friends." The sale takes place Oct. 27 through 30 in the Alice MacKay Room on the lower level of the Central Library, 350 West Georgia St. For more information, call the Friends of VPL hotline at 604331-4049 or email friends@ friendsofthevpl.ca.

sthomas@vancourier.com Twitter: @sthomas10

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