Donating your gently used books to the Friends of the Belmont Public Library is convenient, charitable and green.

Each year, thousands of books are donated to the Friends of the Belmont Public Library. Volunteers make the most of these donations, raising funds for library programs and being as green as possible by extending the life of books and keeping them out of landfills.

A separate nonprofit 501 organization, the Friends of the Belmont Public Library is dedicated to enhancing the activities of the Library. Much of the programming happening at the vibrant library is funded by the Friends. The Friends fund Music & Author series, all teen and young adult programming, hackathons, writing seminars, college planning presentations, museum passes and the Friends recently purchased new Kindles to circulate for all Library patrons. The museum passes alone were utilized more than 2,500 times last year. The Friends raises funds through monetary memberships and donations, but book sales are a key fundraising component of the Friends.

What is the lifecycle of a book donated to the Friends? Book donations arrive daily, dropped off in a Shipping & Receiving Room at the back of the library. A crew of dedicated volunteers handles each and every book, sending them down different paths, depending on type and condition.

Did you know Belmont has a used book shop right on Concord Avenue? A curated array of fiction and nonfiction options rotate through the Friends Every Day Book Shop, located near the Belmont Public Library circulation desk. These books are available for sale whenever the library is open, with most books priced between $.50 and $1.50. A wide selection of children’s books is also available at the Friends Every Day Book Shop.

Popular, recently published fiction in pristine condition are sometimes put into circulation at the library to reduce patron waiting lists. Other fiction in good condition is stored for future book sales. The Friends biggest sale occurs annually in October, but they sell books at Town Day and have occasional one-day pop-up book sales on Saturdays.

Nonfiction books go down a slightly different path. The Friends receive books covering every topic under the sun. To maximize the revenue generated for library programs, the Friends work with a book dealer who reviews all nonfiction books for those which will command a higher price online. If the dealer takes a book and sells it, the Friends receive a percentage of the revenue, netting significantly more funds than they could achieve at used book sale prices. Recent high value books included one on architectural diagramming and another on Japanese cloisonné. Nonfiction books not taken by dealers are saved for book sales or put out in the Every Day Book Shop.

Book operations for the Friends is chaired by Louise Halstead, a Friends of the Library board member for 20 years. Louise started sorting books about 10 years ago and is now the guru of what does and doesn’t sell. She has learned by years of experience, keeping a close eye on what goes quickly at the Every Day Book Sale. Asked if she had any tips for those looking to donate, Louise sagely replied, “People should check their books for book marks. We once found a large Yen bill in a book — it was worth nearly $100. Another time I was putting books upstairs and $20 bills started falling out of one of the nonfiction books. That book had $60 worth of bills and another had $40 in bills. We certainly liked the extra donation.”

Louise coordinates the activities of a crew of book sorting volunteers. When asked how he got started as a book sorting volunteer, Dave Palmer explained, “I came to the Annual Book Sale and was intrigued to see where all the books came from.” Now Dave is a regular part of the book sorting team.

The Friends used-book operations also benefit the community beyond library patrons. Teachers from Belmont Public Schools are invited to select books for their classroom libraries at the annual book sale. This year, the Friends donated more than 1,000 books to the Belmont Public Schools! In addition, some donated books are taken to the Belmont Food Pantry so the children and adults there can choose a few to take home, encouraging reading outside the walls of the Library. The Friends also provide “seed” books for the Little Free Libraries that have sprung up around town. Donated book are occasionally used for other community service project conducted by Belmont scouts or students. Books have been donated for military units overseas and other good causes that encourage reading among people who might have less access to quality books.

The Friends welcome book donations. Donations can be delivered via a service entrance at the back of the library and donors can pick up a tax receipt at the library circulation desk. Belmont resident Tom Shapiro was a recent donor, dropping off 15 boxes of books, and noting that “It gives me great pleasure to donate books to benefit the Library. Education and literacy are so important that this a wonderful institution to support and it is also very rewarding to see books reused and not just thrown out.”

The golden rule of donations is to ask yourself: Is this book in good enough condition that I would buy it? The Friends even have a solution for the books they receive in unsaleable condition, though. Books that are in poor, unsaleable condition or that aren’t sold at a book sale will be recycled. They have a contract with Recycle That, a company that recycles and repurposes a variety of materials. Friends volunteers fill bins with books that cannot be sold. When the bin is full, Recycle That will come and take away all the books left at the end of the Friends process, providing a little more revenue for the Library and confidence that the books will be disposed of in as green a fashion as possible.

For information:

Sally Martin is the president, Friends of the Belmont Public Library