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Second Chapter gives donated books a second chance and funds community programs

County Libraries sells gently used books at local branches and online.


By Celeste McNeil; photo courtesy of Douglas County Libraries

What happens to all those boxes of gently used books and other materials that are donated to local libraries? Douglas County Libraries (DCL) has a solution which benefits the community and provides opportunities to purchase gently used books inexpensively – Second Chapter. First, books are sorted and generally appraised to determine value and condition. The books which may not sell locally are donated to various community outreach programs like Operation Paperback (a national nonprofit that sends gently used books to American troops deployed overseas, veterans and military families).

Most books, DVDs and CDs are placed in the Second Chapter Bookstore located in each branch of the library. Many items are sold for three dollars or less. The books that are deemed of greater value through a quick online search are sold through the DCL Foundation Amazon storefront. The most rare or valuable donated books are held in reserve for the antiquated book sale – typically held at Douglas County Libraries – Highlands Ranch around Valentine’s Day. When a surplus of used books accumulates, a sidewalk or fill-a-bag sale will occur. All proceeds go to the DCL Foundation.

The DCL Foundation funds programs from birth through childhood and into adulthood. The foundation offers scholarships to Camp DCL – spring and summer camps for children, and high school equivalency testing for adults. The foundation also provides early literacy exposure through the Cuddle Up & Read program. Cuddle Up & Read provides books to the youngest readers through partnerships with local pediatric dentist and doctors’ offices. The DCL Summer Reading Program is also sponsored by the DCL Foundation.

Second Chapter has been processing and selling gently used books for more than a decade. The Amazon storefront launched in January 2018 and has been a success. Occasionally, online or antiquarian books sell for several hundred dollars. Staff writer Melissa Anciaux wrote about one such book in the spring 2018 issue of Vanguard, DCL’s internal newsletter. Priced at $900 elsewhere online, DCL volunteer staff listed an autographed copy of Curtis Pitts and His Legendary Biplanes on Amazon. It sold in less than two days for more than $500. The Oklahoma buyer called DCL Donor Relations Specialist the next day and explained that Pitts had been a friend of his fathers and that the buyer had met him. He didn’t typically spend so much on single book purchases, but when he realized the funds go directly to the DCL foundation he was happy to buy the book.

Ali Ayres, Department Head of Volunteer Services for DCL stated for 2018, “We had nearly 1,900 volunteers who donated more than 40,000 hours.  Bookstore operations comprise roughly 15-20% of what our volunteers do for our libraries.” While no official tally is kept, Ayres estimated that the volume of annual district-wide donations “is very large, at least in the tens of thousands range!” Sales from that volume of books equates to nearly $100,000 each year, all going to the DCL Foundation. “Our community is very generous to bring us their books and materials they no longer want so they can potentially have a second life through our Second Chapter bookstores or online sales,” Ayres stated.

Gently used book purchases help drive overall traffic into library branch locations. “Many patrons come into the libraries not to borrow books, but to buy them,” said Nanci Marr, DCL department head of marketing and communications. Next time you’re looking for a good book, don’t forget to browse the Second Chapter section and take home a gently used book while giving back to the community!

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