If you live in L.A. and you like reading, you’re either a fan of The Last Bookstore or haven’t been there, a terrible oversight you should correct to as soon as possible. Not only is it a great place to spend a Sunday afternoon and find your next great read, they also boast a program, Re-Book It, which collects your unwanted books, keeping some, selling some, and distributing the rest to eager readers throughout Los Angeles. Very convenient if you’re moving or just cleaning house. If you have a few boxes, they offer complimentary pickup. I caught up with Kathy Hazen who kindly answered all my nosy questions about how it works.
1. How do donations to Re-Book It work? Do you guys take whatever you can sell and then distribute whatever’s left?
Books that can be used directly by other organizations are temporarily warehoused. Particularly valuable volumes are sold elsewhere and the proceeds from the sales are contributed to other non-profits.
Books that are appropriate for The Last Bookstore are shelved in our warehouse and brought into the store as space opens up. The majority of the donated books are sold in the $1 room in The Labyrinth above The Last Bookstore, which operates as a community service and makes no profit.
If the books are too tired, worn and/or damaged to be of use to anyone, they are turned over to a recycler.
2. What prompted you to start the program?
The program began as a way to divert books from landfills as well as to serve people who needed help donating their books. Most charities no longer accept books due to oversupply and the high costs of moving large quantities of books. Many people also simply have too many books for them to move on their own! The Last Bookstore has helped put previously unwanted books into the hands of thousands of people in L.A. county.
3. You talk in a general way about redistributing books to hospitals, libraries, etc., but can you break down some specifics for us? What would hospitals want, say, as compared to homeless shelters? Do you work with any organizations that have super specific requests?
A children’s cancer hospital requested books for their young patients to read while undergoing treatments. Many convalescent and rehabilitation facilities request that we restock their reading libraries for patients on an ongoing basis. RBI has provided art books for high school art classes, dictionaries for students in language arts class, and small libraries for many start-up daycare facilities. We don’t receive many requests from homeless shelters but imagine they would probably want educational, self-help, or fiction.
We are currently compiling sizable donations for new teachers in a low economic community, both for their classrooms and to send home with the students as well. We have provided collections of reference materials for a local Boys and Girls Club for use in their after school program. The requests are quite varied and we are able to fulfill most every need, due to the generosity of the community!
4. Do you accept books written in Spanish?
We do, and Chinese, Japanese, German and Russian – any language!
5. What would you most like to receive that you never get?
We get pretty much everything, but the best books for our purposes are always going to be those that are either current and in like-new condition, or classics in their category.
6. What do you get a lot of that you don’t have much use for?
Textbooks more than five years old! Although the information contained in them doesn’t change, professors require their students to buy updated editions. Also, Harlequin paperback romance novels and ex-library books are not useful to us.
7. I notice your site lists information on how to schedule a pickup but says nothing about dropping books off at The Last Bookstore. Is that an option?
We do not mention it because it is not our preference. We also do not arrange for drop-offs at our warehouse. We don’t have dedicated personnel in either location to handle them. We offer complimentary pick up for any donor with three boxes of books or more. If a donation is comprised of only a few items I will sometimes recommend they be taken to TLB. It’s also an opportunity for a store visit, which is an event unto itself!
8. If a charity is interested in receiving books from you, should they contact you?
The best way to request books from Re-Book It is to visit our website and submit a Request for Pick-up, just as you would if donating, and write the words REVERSE DONATION in the instruction field (third from the bottom) of the form. Then send a wish list of desired books via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. When both notices are received, your request will be processed.
Thanks, Kathy! I am sorting through my books right now. Hope someone wants my Douglas Coupland rejects, but that might be too much to hope for.