Better World Books Helps Solve Librarians’ Discard Dilemma

When libraries run out of space for new books, BWB comes to the rescue!

Discarded books get a second chance through BWB.

One of the most challenging parts of running a library is book culls. It’s a harsh truth that libraries don’t have enough room to keep everything, and there’s a balance between providing the newest books that patrons demand and ensuring you have a solid collection that addresses both a general knowledge base and specific interests.

Seeing books go to landfills is especially hard because there’s a sense that knowledge is being destroyed. That’s where Better World Books (BWB) comes in. 

Better World Books is an online bookstore specializing in used books, but that isn’t all they do. Through their partnerships with the Internet Archive and libraries, they’ve saved millions of books from going to landfills. Here’s how they’ve done it.


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Library Services

BWB collects used books from libraries, academic institutions, and booksellers to resell, donate, or recycle. This takes much of the burden off of librarians, who can simply pack up books in shipping boxes that BWB provides. From there, BWB markets and processes your library’s saleable materials, then returns much of that money to the library. While some books do end up truly discarded, BWB has saved more than 450 million books from landfills. 

This book donation program has allowed BWB to contribute back to the library community, too—they have raised close to $34 million for literacy programs and libraries. Everybody wins in this scenario; the burden of figuring out what to do with the books is easier for the librarians, and the books’ life cycle is extended. It’s a way for the books to live on, even if they no longer fit a library collection’s needs.


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The books that BWB rescues don’t all end up in private hands. Many of these old library books receive new life through the Internet Archive. This service digitizes books and makes them freely available to the public. You can access these books anywhere, any time—and because they are digitized, they are more easily accessible to readers with disabilities who may use a screen reader or require larger print sizes. Since their partnership with the Internet Archive, BWB has donated over a million books each year for preservation—four million books to date!

If your library is interested in contributing books through BWB, you should check out their services page. For the rest of us, we can be happy that there’s a company so supportive of our libraries and making sure that the knowledge contained in books isn’t lost to the ages.



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