Written by Jimmie Epling   

A Donated Book Tells Its Story at the Library 

by Jimmie Epling

Do you sometimes find it difficult part with a book you own?  You read it and placed it on the shelf, thinking that one day you will read it again because its words spoke to you in a special way or its wealth of information would be impossible to find in one place again?  Now, years later, you see that book sitting on your shelf.  The reason you notice it is because the cover is a bit faded, the edges are worn, and there is a thin layer of dust on it.  Looking at it, you can’t quite remember the last time you took it from the shelf.  Now you wonder, can I bring myself to let it go?  “Not yet.” you say to yourself.  Then you are like so many who find it difficult, near impossible, to let go of a once treasured book.  To you, it just plain wrong to toss a book into the trash.  So what will do you do?  Let the Darlington County Library System help you with your problem.  Donate your unwanted books to the Library. 

The Darlington County Library System receives thousands of donated books every year.  Sometimes it is a couple of books left in the book drop.  On the rare occasion, a person will back up a truck to the front door with a couple dozen boxes of books.  Usually, it is one or two bags or boxes filled with books.  Those who drop off their unwanted books hope they find a new home and a new life at the Library.  A few who donate ask the staff, “What do you do with all these donations?” 

Just like you, the Library’s staff finds it hard to toss a book into the trash too!  Realistically, we all know the Library can’t keep everything.  For this reason, we developed and refined a set of guidelines to decide what to do with all the books we receive.  The guidelines can be summed up in one word, MUSTIE.

Each letter of MUSTIE refers to a guideline we use to help us decide which books to keep.  “M” stands for “Misleading” and/or factually inaccurate.  We can all think a book like that!  “U” is for a book that is worn, dirty, and/or unattractive…that is, just plain “Ugly.”  “S” is for a book that is “Superseded” by a new edition or better book.  “T” describes a book that even though its information is accurate, it is “Trivial” because it has no lasting literary, historical, or scientific value.  When you think about it, you got rid of those books long ago yourself.  “I” is for a book that is “Irrelevant” to our community’s needs and interests.  And lastly, “E” is for a book that may be found “Elsewhere.”  If it is ever needed by someone we will borrow it from another library.

Guidelines can only tell you so much.  The best way is to let a book tell you its experience as a donation to the Library. 

“I was a bestseller.  The person who wrote the story contained within my pages had a way with words that could bring a tear on one page and a smile on another.  I was the featured book near the entrance of the local bookstore.  One evening, I was scooped up by a gentleman and spirited away to his home.  He presented me to his wife with an anniversary inscription inside my cover.  She read me.  I saw her shed tears and heard her laugh.  She gave me to her husband, who after a bit of protest, read me.  I saw his eyes mist over and heard his laughter.  For a time, they shared me with several of their friends and their reactions were the same.  After a while, with my cover worn, a few of my pages dog eared, and a rather embarrassing coffee stain on page 279, I was placed on a shelf. 

“From my perch on the shelf, I watched the couple grow older and children appear.  Once a young girl took me from the shelf and read me.  I was so happy.  She cried and laughed in all the familiar places.  Then one day, the gentleman took me from the shelf with all my friends and placed me in a box.  When I emerged from the box, I discovered I was at the Library.  A staff member looked me over, wondering what to do with me. 

“The Library already owned a copy of me.  Because of my worn condition and that pesky coffee stain, I was not saved as a future replacement for the copy owned by the Library.  Some of my shelf mates were selected for the Library’s collection.  Some replaced worn out copies of the books the Library owned.  A few the Library did not own were placed on the shelves.  Two of them made their way into what is called the reference collection and one special book was placed in the local history collection.  Each made the Library’s customers happy and saved it money.  As for myself, I was passed on to the Friends of the Library for their book sale. 

“The Friends take the donations the Library cannot use to sell to help raise funds for special programs and projects.  The Friends have an ongoing book sale in each location, DarIington, Hartsville, Lamar, and Society Hill and occasional special weekend sales.  I was once again placed on a shelf.  It wasn’t too long until the next book sale.  I was thrilled when a lady bought me, this time I was sold for just a $1.  She read the story.  I was so happy to see someone else cry and smile.  She placed me on a shelf.  It wasn’t long before I found myself in a book drop and once again on the Friends’ book sale shelf.

“Here I have sat with my shelf mates for several months waiting for another reader to take me from the shelf.  It may be I’ll not be read again.  In time, because I am made of paper, I will be recycled or even into a work of art.  I am fine with that.  The story in my pages will not be lost.  It will go on.  In my case, I’ll be happy to become another book.  Maybe this time rather than becoming a best seller I will become a children’s book with colorful pages that will bring laughter and a sense of wonder into a child’s life.

The Darlington County Library System is happy to receive your donations.  Some of them will make it into our collection.  Some of the books you donate will find new homes through the Friends book sale.  And others will go on to become works of art or new books.  Just know, when you donate your books to the Library, those books you once cherished will make others happy in one form or another.            

March 2, 2015