In the last few weeks, we have had several people inquire about donating books. The first person wanted to give us several boxes of books with the knowledge we would see that they found new loving homes. Another had a collection which he wanted "to go to someone who can use them." Another had books left over from a garage sale and just wanted them out of her house. Perhaps you have some books about rock climbing that no longer interest you in retirement. Perhaps the inevitable has happened, and you are left with an attic full of Grandpa's books. Perhaps your spouse wants to reclaim some space previously lost to books. At some point we all find a need to divest ourselves of books, and there are many ways to do so.
If one is a good capitalist, one will first consider selling the books. Garage sales are simple and local, but even if the books are unique, one cannot expect to get much more than a dollar. There exist numerous online venues for selling merchandise, but this requires a great deal of time and effort--listing, storing, shipping--that many people do not have. Also, if those books are bestsellers, one will earn little, if any, profit. If one is lucky, there will be a local bookshop that will barter or buy outright.
If one is neither interested or motivated to sell their books, there are many options for donating. The best place to start is the local library. Small-town libraries especially appreciate the free additions to their collections, and many will hold periodic sales of the books they cannot use to raise money that goes a long way toward supplementing their small-town budgets. There are many local organizations or churches that will collect and distribute books, or hold fund-raising sales. Our Lions Club collects books to send in monthly care packages to our troops overseas. Another group is the American Association of University Women, which has branches throughout the United States, and uses the money they raise to fund scholarships for young women. Hospitals and facilities such as nursing homes or veterans homes usually welcome book donations to give residents simple options for spending time. Convicts probably have more leisure time than any other group, and so prisons also accept books. We would just caution one to donate The Great Train Robbery, or any similar book, elsewhere.
Communities struck by natural disasters, like tornadoes or fires, can find it difficult to replace public book collections that have been destroyed. Often basic essentials such as water, food, and clothing are donated to such communities by the truckload, but they don't get enough of the things that go in to making life more than mere existence, such as toys or books. An hour's distraction reading about Jane and Rochester, or Alice and the March Hare can be a great relief in the face of tragic circumstances. And the sooner a community has a working library, the sooner it is ensouled.
Our last suggestion is to try the barter system of BookMooch. Here a user lists books they want to give away. Any other user can browse the list, and then mooch that book. The points one accumulates for listing and giving books are then spent to mooch other books. The nice part about this is the ability to acquire books of newer interest to replace books of lost interest. We have had great experiences there, both giving and receiving, and highly recommend it.
Any of the suggestions we've made are helpful in divesting oneself of unwanted books, and they help spread the practice and joys of reading. We do them all and still have more books than we know what to do with. If anyone has other suggestions, please add a comment. What we consider to be the most important thing about dealing with unwanted books is to never throw them away. Even that set of encyclopedias from the 1970s can be found a new loving home.