I thought of calling this FAQAD, for Frequently Asked Questions About Donations, but I thought someone might think I was discussing the Arabian music journals someone just donated. I also thought of calling it “What Don’t You Want from Me?”
See, an awfully lot of people feel their books are not worthy of the Newberry Library, and expect me to laugh out loud when they suggest giving these to me. I don’t think I have laughed at a prospective donor more than ten times in 25 years. It’s not my style. I prefer to make snide remarks about you behind your back. It’s hard to keep up this level of manners and civility, but I will accept your gratitude at some later date.
Anyway, I still get people who ask:
Do you take books in foreign languages? Yes. Not only do I take them, I sell them. We seem to have a nearly inexhaustible market for (basically in this order) Italian, Latin, French, German, Spanish, and Greek texts. We also sell very well in the areas of Hebrew, Polish, and Russian. We get and sell a lot of books in Thai and Hungarian and Japanese, too. The languages not mentioned in any of those lists have their market as well. Chicago is a multi-ethnic city. Take a long ride on, oh, the 36 bus some time.
Do you take cookbooks? Yes. I don’t really understand why these are considered less booky than other books, but some people regard them as beneath our dignity. If selling books is not beneath our dignity, neither is selling books about food. (By the way, we also get a lot of cookbooks in German, Italian, Thai, etc. etc. We like those, too.)
Do you really take paperbacks? Yes. Because basically, they are, um, books. I would rather sell fifty paperbacks at a buck apiece than one hardcover art book for $40. We have customers who would rather buy that way, too.
Do you take last year’s bestsellers? Yes. There are people who haven’t read those yet. (Come on, have a little self-confidence: you’re not the last person to get around to The Governor.)
Do you take children’s books? Yes. They’re making new children every year, and those kids will need books. Pass ‘em on!
Do you take books packed in banana boxes? Yes. And I take a lot of aspirin, too.