How To

Donating Books During COVID-19

Elizabeth Allen

Staff Writer

Lifelong book lover, Elizabeth Allen managed to get a degree in something completely unrelated that she never intends to use. She’s a proud Connecticut native who lives in a picturesque small town with her black olive-obsessed toddler daughter, her prom date-turned-husband, and her two dim-witted cats Penny Lane and Gretchen Wieners. She spends her days trying to find a way to be paid to read while drinking copious amounts of coffee, watching episodes of Gilmore girls until the DVDs fail, waiting for her husband to feed her, and being obnoxiously vain about her hair. Elizabeth’s work can be found at, where she is currently reading and reviewing all of the books referenced in Gilmore girls. She is also the cohost of two podcasts discussing the work of Amy Sherman-Palladino (“Under the Floorboards” and “Stumbling Ballerinas”). Basically, her entire goal in life is to be a bookish Lorelai Gilmore. She clearly dreams big. Twitter: @BWRBooks

With all acknowledgement of my privilege, I must say that the COVID-related cancellation that hit me the hardest was my town library’s annual book sale. This sale is my Christmas, Super Bowl, and COLUMBUS DIDN’T DISCOVER AMERICA Day all rolled into one. I eagerly await it each year. And the glory comes in waves. Wave 1 is me going through my library to weed out which books I want to donate to the sale. Why do I currently own four copies of The Lonely Polygamist and three copies of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas? Admittedly, Wave 1 is entirely in service of Wave 2, replacing those donated books…and then some.

While I always had a special spot in my heart for Wave 2, this global pandemic has made it very clear to me just how important a regular annual cleaning of books is to my mental and physical well-being. Mental because mess and clutter has always caused me psychological angst. And physical because, well, I don’t want to be crushed by 78 copies of books about polygamy and the Holocaust.

Since so many annual book sales across the globe were cancelled, I wanted to share some ways in which you can clear out your book clutter (to make more room for impulse quarantine book purchases). These suggestions are contingent on local infection rates and the individual branches. As always, please practice all necessary precautions while donating. Do not donate your items if you or someone in your household are ill. Wear a mask during your donation and be sure to follow social distancing measures.

Half-Priced Books

Half-Priced Books is currently purchasing used books from the public. Limited hours and restrictions apply. Contact your specific location for more information.

Goodwill/Salvation Army

Facebook Marketplace

If you’d like to get a little cash for your books, consider listing them on Facebook Marketplace. Determine the safest and most secure way to exchange the books with the buy so all parties are comfortable.

Books for Africa

Books for Africa is the largest shipper of donated text and library books to the African continent.

Your Local Book Bank

You will likely have to call in advance and make an appointment to deliver your donations. Go to your local Book Bank’s website for more information.

Operation Paperback

This organization focuses on getting paperback books into the hands of active duty American soldiers. They are accepting donations during COVID and have asked volunteers to take proper precautions

Donate to a Teacher

Each school and individual teacher will likely have their own policy about accepting donations for their classroom or school library. If you have a teacher friend, reach out to them and ask if they could use any age-appropriate books you might be willing to donate.

Little Free Libraries

Due to the fact that so many people were stuck in their houses for so long, the cupboards are pretty bare at a lot of local Little Free Libraries. Individual stewards of Little Free Libraries have been called to make their own choices about whether or not they wish for their libraries to remain open during this time. Check out the below map to find one closest to you.

Donate to a Friend

My friends and I are currently dropping off books in each other’s mailboxes. We also have used our local bookstore as a way station. The owner of our local indie is happy to have us drop off books in anticipation of it being picked up. The bonus: we’re all likely to purchase a book while there!

Your Local Library

Some public libraries have reopened their acceptance of used books. Please contact your local branch to see if they are accepting donations at this time.