I live in a building with about 115 apartments. Many years ago, someone put a bookcase in the basement laundry room. Residents began filling it with books, culling their own collections and glad to not have to figure out where to donate the books themselves. A retired librarian took charge, cleaning out the shelves periodically, then she passed the task on to a former library volunteer, and some years ago, she passed the job on to me.
When the pandemic took hold a year ago, we were worried about the contagiousness of surfaces, so I asked the super to drape a tarp over the bookcase so people wouldn’t keep leaving their unwanted books. My major donation sites shut down: a nearby library branch, the nonprofit Housing Works.
Last week, it seemed time to open up the bookcase. People had been leaving books anyway, and despite my earlier efforts to keep fiction and nonfiction separately, everything was mixed up. Plus, despite my pleas, people continue to leave books that can’t be or aren’t worth being donated: reference works, textbooks, travel books more than four years old, or what I think of as speciality books (“The Astrology Body Types” anyone?).
Tonight I began sorting through the books. I throw out those I know I can’t donate, which does pain me—throwing away books??!—but I know no one in the building will take those books, and if I take them to Housing Works, someone there will probably throw them out. I’m e-mailing a playwright friend to see if she’s interested in either of the two acting training books I found, and a poet friend about two contemporary poetry anthologies. And I’ll post on our online building bulletin board about what kinds of books are welcome and which aren’t. We’ll see if that has any effect.
I’m participating in the 14th annual Slice of Life Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers. This is day 21 of the 31-day challenge. It’s not too late to make space for daily writing in a community that is encouraging, enthusiastic, and eager to read what you have to slice about. Join in!