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June 12, 2006

The Dewey Donation System


Since 2003, my friend, fellow author and blogger Pamela Ribon has done an annual charity drive wherein she picks a group of libraries who are in need of some timely donations and encourages all her readers (and others) to make a donation of books or cash to the libraries. This year she had gussied up her donation drive and found some co-sponsors (including Television Without Pity and Glarkware) and is debuting the donation drive under its new name and Web site, the Dewey Donation System.

This year's donation drive focus is the Harrison County Library System, in Mississippi. Harrison County's libraries were incredibly hard hit by Hurricane Katrina, with its two largest libraries, in Biloxi and Gulfport, gutted by the tidal surge created by the storm. These libraries lost all of their childrens' books and much of their fiction and audiovisual offerings. Other libraries in the system lost some or all of their collections as well. Many of these libraries are still closed; all of them need to rebuild their collections.

The Dewey Donation System site makes it easy for you to pitch in: The site links you to the Amazon wish lists of the individual libraries in the Harrison County Library System. Browse through the things they need, and when you find something that tickles your fancy (and fits your budget), buy it. Amazon takes care of sending it to the library -- no need for you to worry about how it's going to get there. Then once you've made your donation, swing back by the Dewey Donation System site and let them know what you've donated. You'll get your props for encouraging the cause of literacy, and maybe that will encourage others to donate as well.

I've been a big fan of this annual book drive since it began, not only because it's helping preserve literacy -- a big cause of mine, as you can guess -- but also because it makes it so simple for me to do the right thing and send a book or two. Pick, click, done. I've donated this year like I always do (a copy of Hemingway's A Moveable Feast to the Gulfport branch), and I encourage you to do the same -- and to let other folks know this donation drive is going on. The Dewey Donation System site has PSAs and ad banners you can add to your own site if you like, but I think what would be even more effective, if you're a blogger, is to do an entry and say, "hey, I donated. How about you?"

I wasn't approached by Pamie or anyone else involved to do an entry about this, incidentally. I'm just happy she keeps doing it every year, and I'm happy to call attention to her good works when she does them. I hope you'll join me in thanking her and the other sponsors of this drive, join me in donating to this cause, and join me in letting other folks know it's happening.

So, to Pamie: Thanks. And to everyone else: Hey, I donated. How about you?

Posted by john at June 12, 2006 08:40 PM

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Kevin Q | June 12, 2006 10:30 PM

John, maybe you know this, or somebody else here might, but when a library buys a book for circulation, do they pay wholesale or retail prices on it?

I'm just curious. If they can get the books wholesale, then it seems like it would be better to donate money to the library, and get more book for their buck.


John Scalzi | June 12, 2006 10:33 PM

There are librarians who frequent this site who would be better equipped to answer that question, I suspect.

sGreer | June 13, 2006 12:12 AM

I grew up visiting Biloxi every summer to see my grandparents, and the West Biloxi Library was our idea of the perfect thing to do on a hot afternoon. My grandmother would look up the newest novels she'd not read, while my sister and I perused the children's sections. Thanks so much for posting the link & information.

As to the ordering for libraries, I believe it depends on whether the county (or state) has set up an account with the big distributors, like Ingram, or Baker & Taylor. Depending on how much the county/state orders, the discount may be higher or lower, or not at all. I'm not sure whether Mississippi's counties would have ever had the budget in the first place to really command a significant discount to make it worth it, since the discount is often linked to how much business the library's going to provide.

And, as the library information notes that each library has limited amount of cash (and the majority of that probably going to reconstruction), I'd think it's best to split the difference. Buy two books, and send the same amount in cash for rebuilding, but at least the local kids will have something to read in the meantime.

I await a librarians' corrections, since that's just my understanding of how it works based on vague recollections from owning a bookstore & talking to the distributors about different classes of wholesale.

marrije | June 13, 2006 05:50 AM

Hey! I donated! 4 books for the Saucier Library in Biloxi. Thanks for drawing my attention to Pamie's continuing great idea.

G. Jules | June 13, 2006 07:32 AM

I donated. :-) Three books to the Margaret Sherry Memorial Library -- two YAs and a book on drywall. (Why drywall? Because I was down in inland-but-still-hit MS a month or so after Katrina, and when buildings flood, the first thing to go is the drywall.) From the choices on their wishlist, they must have a great YA librarian.

Thanks for drawing my attention to the program. :-)

Smurf | June 13, 2006 11:27 AM

She should consider the Holden School in Charlestown. I seem to recall them having 5 books there... and one of them was a Batman comic, and another was the Torrie Wilson Playboy issue.

Chris Gerrib | June 13, 2006 12:27 PM

Yes, libraries can order wholesale and most do. But, from information via my Rotary Club, most of the local government in Harrison County is technically bankrupt. They don't have many tax dollars coming in since the economy's a mess, so what money they do have is going for salaries and operating costs.

I suspect that any money sent will go for operating / reconstruction costs, not books.

Lars | June 13, 2006 12:49 PM

Kevin Q:

"I'm just curious. If they can get the books wholesale, then it seems like it would be better to donate money to the library, and get more book for their buck."

It'd be cool if one could donate money, and specify which books the library should spend it on. I like the idea of infecting -- i mean effecting -- other minds with my reading list.

CoolBlue | June 13, 2006 01:01 PM

I've promoted the Dewey Donation Drive on my blog along with another project I'm working on, but the backtrack didn't take.

Just so you know.

John Scalzi | June 13, 2006 01:19 PM

I saw it. Thanks!

pamie | June 13, 2006 03:51 PM

Thanks so much, guys! I really appreciate the help.

Midwestern Progressive | June 13, 2006 07:59 PM


I'm in.

Chris in NJ | June 15, 2006 11:53 AM

I donated and I've been re-posting the link every day so it's on the top of my blog. I don't know if I get much traffic, but if I can convince one friend to donate, I'll be happy.

Chris in NJ | June 15, 2006 11:57 AM

I linked to the interview over at BTW on my blog, and I ended up pasting that as my URL here. Sheesh! Anyway it's fixed on this entry if anyone is interested.

John Scalzi | June 15, 2006 12:39 PM

Thanks, Chris.

Anne C. | June 18, 2006 06:21 PM

Thanks for posting about this, John.
I donated and mentioned it on my blog.

Gretchen | July 11, 2006 10:23 PM

I just wanted to let you know that I am a local in South Mississippi, and I want to thank you in advance for anything you can do. I have access to one small library where my children go to the summer reading program. I used to go the large library downtown as it was a mile from my house, but the first floor was completely destroyed as was much of the second floor. It will be YEARS before it is rebuilt, and we need books now. From all of us here on the Coast who love our books, THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU CAN DO!

TCO | March 18, 2007 04:37 PM

Better off giving cash. If the building is destroyed, that is more critical than the collection. There are so many excess books out there, that most libraries end up disposing of books all the time and won't even accept used books. Hey, but if it makes you feel good, that's the important thing, right?

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