Book Fair Donations

Donated books abound at the 2011 Book Fair.
Donated books abound at the 2011 Book Fair.

The Newberry is pleased to accept your donations of books for our annual Book Fair, which is held the last weekend in July. For more information on donating your books to Newberry, please see below, or call the Book Fair Hotline at (312) 255-3501.

If you wish to consult Newberry staff about an area of the collection or are considering a gift of materials to the collection, you are welcome to get in touch with a curator or librarian. Find our more about Collecting at the Newberry. For other questions about Newberry collecting, contact us at collecting@newberry.org.

How Can I Donate?

Books may be donated to the Book Fair either by delivering them to us, or by asking us to pick them up. Books must be in boxes or bags. We regret that we cannot take loose books, nor can we return boxes that books are delivered in. We are, at the moment, short of volunteers available to pick up books. If you are interested in helping out, learn more about Volunteering at the Newberry.

When Can I Donate?

Books may be dropped off when the Newberry’s lights are on. Our preference is between 8:15 am and 4 pm, Monday through Saturday. The building is closed on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends and certain other holidays.

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

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

What Can I Donate?

We take just about all kinds of

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

Exceptions to this rule are:

  • Magazines: We do NOT take most weekly magazines. We don’t especially 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: Archaeology, 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 and north of the John Hancock Building, bounded on four sides by Walton, Clark, Oak, and Dearborn Streets. Please see Directions for more information.

The front door is at 60 West 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, which is in the Newberry parking lot. You will find the gate on West Oak Street. Knocking at the loading dock door gently, or using the phone next to the door, will bring the ill-tempered author of this paragraph to the door. Either he or the guard in the lobby can issue a receipt.

We are a fully official 501(c)3 institution, and you can get a deduction. The amount you deduct is your responsibility, however.

Who Can I Talk to About Donating to the Book Fair?

Any further questions on these matters can be referred to the Book Fair manager, Dan Crawford, who can be reached at (312) 255-3501 or crawfordd@newberry.org.

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 what factors are considered 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 the Newberry reference department 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.