Donate Books and Materials | Newberry

Donate Books and Materials

Pressburger Finger-kalenderl auf das Jahr 1799. inside front cover, t.p; printed in red and black; ladies pocket-calendar;

The inside front cover and first page of a ladies pocket-calendar for the year 1799, printed in Pressburg. This book is one of many miniatures found in the Wing Collection.

The Newberry welcomes donations of books, music, videos, games, and other collectible items for our annual Book Fair. Please see the guide below for more information about donating to the Book Fair.

In addition, we are pleased to consider items that will extend, strengthen, and complement the Newberry’s collection. Potential donations are reviewed by library staff to determine their appropriateness to the collection and their place within the library’s collecting emphases. If you are considering a gift of materials to the Newberry, please contact our curators or email

The Newberry also welcomes donations of funds to support the acquisition, cataloging, and conservation of materials. To learn more about these giving opportunities, please contact Sarah Alger, Director of Development, at (312) 255-3544 or

Donating to the Book Fair

The Newberry is pleased to accept donations for our annual Book Fair. Every item sold at the Book Fair begins as a donation, and all proceeds from the sale support the Newberry’s collections, services, and programs. You can find the answers to commonly asked questions below. For additional information, please call the Book Fair Hotline at (312) 255-3501.

The Book Fair would not be possible without your donations and the generosity of our volunteers who help staff the event. Learn more about volunteering at the Book Fair.

When can I donate?

Books may be dropped off throughout the year when the Newberry’s lights are on (see below for exceptions). Our preference is between 8 am and 4 pm, Monday through Saturday. Please note that the building is closed on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends and certain other holidays, so we recommend calling the main line at (312) 943-9090 in advance to confirm our hours.

In order to manage our inventory, we regret that we are unable to accept book donations between the following dates:

  • January 1 – 31
  • April 1 – 30
  • July 4 (Independence Day) – Labor Day
  • October 1 – 31

What can I donate?

We take just about all kinds of the following items:

  • Books – fiction and nonfiction, for children and adults, paperback and hardcover
  • Manuscripts
  • CDs, cassette tapes, and records (LPs, 78s, 45s)
  • DVDs and video cassettes
  • Magazines – history, art, literary, antiques
  • Complete puzzles and games
  • Other cultural artifacts

Exceptions to this rule are:

  • Magazines – we do NOT take most weekly magazines. We especially don’t want National Geographic, Smithsonian, Gourmet, Architectural Digest, Reader’s Digest, or CatFancy. But we’ll take even those if published before, say, 1945.
  • Condensed Books – we are not particularly interested in Select Editions, Today’s Bestselling Nonfiction, and other such collections. However, Best-In-Books, a series from the 1950s, contains both condensed and uncondensed books, and we take that, along with the old Detective Club Three-In-Ones.
  • Textbooks – we do take some, in esoteric subjects: Archeology, say, or Astronomy. But the vast run of textbooks you bought for Economics 101 or Freshman Psychology are of very limited sale ability. Yes, if you spent so much money on them that you really can’t bear to throw them away, bring them in. We’ll throw them away, and your conscience can remain clear.
  • Garbage – books with the covers missing, books with pages torn out (even if you’ve stapled them back in), books that have been underlined or highlighted to the point where they are now really works of modern art, and books that have gotten damp and moldy. If you REALLY think a book is still valuable even though it is damaged, pass it along, but a good rule of thumb is: if we can smell it from five feet away, we don’t want to see it.
  • Common Sense Things – no puppies or kittens, no large furniture (we’ll take your bookends but not your bookcases), no clothing, no carpets, no houseplants, and nothing suffering from insect infestation.

Where can I donate?

The Newberry is just a few blocks west of the John Hancock Building, bounded on four sides by Walton, Clark, Oak, and Dearborn Streets. Get directions.

The front door is at 60 W. Walton, and you may carry as many books up the front steps as is convenient and leave them with the guard on duty. There is only the most temporary of parking available there. Larger orders may be brought to the loading dock in the Newberry parking lot (entrance on Oak). When you have arrived, please knock gently on the loading dock door or use the phone next to the door.

Is my donation tax deductible?

Both the Book Fair Manager and the guard on duty in the lobby can issue a receipt. We are a fully official 501(c)3 institution, which means your donations are deductible, though the amount you deduct is your responsibility.

What if I donate something really, really valuable?

We’d think it’s really, really nice of you. Oh, you mean something that you didn’t know was so valuable. Well, one of two things will happen. If the book is something that is desired for the Newberry’s own collection, you will probably hear from a curator, who will thank you in no uncertain tones. If not, you will, at length, get a call from the Book Fair Manager to ask if you really meant to donate something so nifty.

What if I suspect something is really valuable? Can I ask when I make the donation, even if the manager knows I’ll take it home with me if he thinks it is valuable?

You may certainly ask. As a library, we are not permitted to appraise materials, but the Book Fair Manager will do his best to advise you, even if he thinks he won’t get the book. On the other hand, nobody knows everything about books, and he’s not really in the business.

The value of a book depends on many things, including its scarcity or rarity, its condition, and its place of importance in history. The website Your Old Books is a good primer on which factors to consider when evaluating an item. To get approximate prices for a book, you can check online booksellers such as Alibris and AbeBooks to see if similar items are for sale. But if you’re really suspicious it’s of great value, take it to an appraiser or dealer.

Can you recommend an appraiser or dealer?

A place to start is at The American Society of Appraisers. You can also contact our reference librarians and they will send you a list of Chicago-area appraisers who may be able to help.

What if I donate a book and realize the next day that I want it back?

It happens. Our rule is that if we can find it, you may come and take it back. If we can’t locate it after a reasonable search, you’ll just have to come to the next Book Fair and buy it back.

Who can I talk to about donating to the Book Fair?

Any further questions on these matters can be referred to Dan Crawford, Book Fair Manager, who can be reached at (312) 255-3501 or

Learn More about Ways to Give