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Your Opinion: Old Library Books, Dump or Donate?

After resident Janet Sterman found boxes of library books outside a dumpster near the old Newton Corner branch library, questions were raised as to what the city does with old books. What do you think?

In an email sent to Newton Patch Saturday morning, Newton resident Janet Sterman noted that she found boxes of books from the old Newton Corner branch library being thrown in a dumpster near the building.

Calling the action an "atrocity", Sterman, who is running for Ward 1 alderman-at-large, emailed several city officials, local residents, organizations and elected officials, including the mayor and Board of Aldermen:

 

I just walked past the dumpster at the former NC Branch Library. The City of Newton is throwing out BOOKS at the old branch library to make room for offices. This is an atrocity. Even if we not longer want them, they could be donated to someone who would read them! 

 

We want to know: What do you think the city should do with old library books? Vote in our poll and tell us in the comments section below.

In an email sent Saturday afternoon, Board of Aldermen President Scott Lennon responded to Sterman's inquiry, explaining that outreach was done over the summer in an attempt to donate the books to local organizations.

Lennon provided information from Chief Operating Officer Bob Rooney, who explained that the city was able to give away 152 of the approximately 200 boxes of books in the branch library.

Lennon's email: 

Hello All 

I feel it is important for everyone to also weigh the facts below in addition to the information prepared below by Janet Sterman.  This information was provided to me by Bob Rooney after me and many of my Aldermanic colleagues had expressed some interest in knowing what the final disposition of the NCBL books would be.  This was done in the latter part of the summer. 

I also mentioned to Janet on the phone this AM that I would follow up with Bob on Monday morning to find out if the non-profits had an interest or not.  I personally reached out to the Boys & Girls Club on Watertown Street, in addition to the ones listed below, and they did not have an interest due to spacing issues.

I feel the city did try to do its due diligence in trying to dispose of the books.  If we erred by not reaching out to the community at large, I will share some responsibility for that but I think it is irresponsible to imply that the city was simply trying to throw books in the trash this AM.  Unfortunately, some were disposed of and some were salvaged but it was not from a lack of to perform some outreach.

As always, if you have any questions after reviewing the facts, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Scott Lennon, Alderman

Ward One

[Information from Rooney]: 

Knew you were interested in the disposition of the over 10,000 books that had been boxed up in the Newton Corner Library. Our graduate intern, Chau Ly, has compiled an updated inventory broken down by organization as of this week (you can see the Eliot Church took the lion's share):

  • There were approximately 200 boxes of books stored at this library.
  • Outreach was made to Lincoln Eliot School, Underwood School, Waban Library, Auburndale Library, Bigelow Middle School, Evans Park Assisted Living Facility, Eliot Church, Grace Church, First Literacy (literacy nonprofit in Boston) and Second Step  (homeless shelter in Newtonville) about taking the books
The following organizations took books:
  • Underwood 3 boxes
  • Evans Park 4 boxes
  • Waban 10 boxes
  • Lincoln Eliot 15 boxes
  • Eliot Church 120 boxes
These organizations declined books:
  • Bigelow Middle School
  • Auburndale Library
  • Second Step
  • First Literacy

There are about 20-30 boxes of books left over--apparently mostly encyclopedias and reference books. May get non-profits involved at this point who will either pay us per pound for the books picked up or at least take them off our hands at no charge and reuse them. Josh Morse recommends that we have Got Books, a nonprofit organization in Wilmington, who takes used books and sends them to low income people in the US and abroad. Got Books will take the books for free and give us money for them (based on weight).

Several residents who were copied on the email chain also responded, noting their disappointment in the dumping of the books. After a request from resident Michael Rothstein for a response from the mayor, Mayor Setti Warren addressed to the incident via email:

I appreciate the concern our residents have around this issue and I take it very seriously as someone as committed as I am to education. As President Lennon and COO Bob Rooney have pointed out in detail, the city went to great lengths to handle the books appropriately. I know those of us in city government always want to hear feedback for future purposes and as many residents know I welcome that communication. Call us anytime at 617-796-1100 or email. 

Thanks,

Setti Warren

We want to hear from you -- vote in our poll and share your thoughts on the book tossing incident in the coments box below, did the city handle it properly?

LJCohen November 02, 2011 at 03:03 PM
More than Words in Waltham is a non-profit organization that teaches at risk kids to run a business (book store). They accept donations of books.
David Kruger November 02, 2011 at 05:22 PM
Got Books Inc is NOT a non-profit
Charlie Shapiro November 02, 2011 at 09:50 PM
It is unconscionable to be tossing out books without attempting every possible alternative option. This may, however, be a case where all internal options were discussed but more could have been done such as sending out a press release to inform and enlist the public's input. A little information goes a long way to avoid shock and surprise, especially in a community where we all value books so highly. Hopefully a lesson has been learned.
Janet Sterman November 03, 2011 at 08:01 PM
A young professional who I know from when she was a kid when taught skiing at Killington in 1990 and is now a graduate of Smith College and North Dakota State University had this comment to me on FACEBOOK, "Why on earth didn't they have a book sale?! They could have donated them or even brought them to the Five College book sale, where people come from all over the world looking for books. There are some great out of print books that you can only get at a library. It is a shame they just threw them away."
MARASH GIRL November 05, 2011 at 03:59 PM
It's interesting that Eliot Church, who received 120 boxes of books, had no problem finding two non-profits who were willing to pick up 75 of those boxes which had not sold during the Church Fair. Funny. There are so many options and the city looked into approx. 10% of them. Perhaps we should have a Task Force to look into the plethora of opportunities for donations of unwanted City goods throughout the area and present these options to the City. Anyone interested? And we're not just talking about books here. Anyone see all the good stuff that was thrown out when they closed the old Newton North?

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