21 January 2011

When Donating Books...

After spending my first week at Reformed Theological College (RTC) orienting myself to the school and and the library, this past week I jumped into starting some projects. Let me tell you, it feels good to be needed. After talking with staff members, lecturers, and students, I found there are plenty of things for me to work on this year, from training to outreach to instruction. I am going to be busy. And I'm excited about the work I'll be doing. Excited to be a part of this library. I have made a general outline and plan for myself and the library for the upcoming year but the past few days we focused on sorting donated books. And, it broke my heart.

Let me tell you why:

1.  If you are donating books somewhere, please, please don’t donate books that are falling apart. I know you think people in Africa are eager for knowledge and will want books no matter what. You are wrong. If you don’t want it, chances are no one else will either.

2. If you are donating to a theological college that does not mean you need to donate books about missionaries from the 1960s or biography/memoirs of random Christians we have never heard of.

3. It also means you don’t need to donate boxes worth of Chicken Soup for the Soul or the Left Behind series.

4. We especially do not need boxes that are simply full of 100 copies of one book. Especially if that book is a US History textbook from 1990.

5. Theological colleges do not necessarily need bibles and hymnals either. These students are not just reading the bible and singing songs. They are trying to study: Greek, Hebrew, homiletics, systematic theology.

6. Again, if it is outdated to you, it is outdated to others as well.

7. You have a good heart, I know. I admire your willingness to recycle and help others. I am also thankful that RTC has been given so many books. Just please, please know where your donated books are going and think before you send off all your Christian self-help books to a college. Colleges are looking for scholarly information and research. Even here in Africa.

Ok, I’ll put away my soap-box for now. Or rather my box full of “I’ll Hold You in Heaven” copies. I'm just passionate about creating a library that is relevant to its users. And helping people understand that a library is not just a collection of random books.

And, don’t worry. The books we aren’t keeping will get used in some way. Just not by the library.

Books before we sorted

The boxes of books we decided to keep


  1. Rachel--I love your blog and am so excited to read more. I think this entry in particular needs to be seen by EVERYONE!

  2. Rachel, that is an excellent post. Far too often, we think others deserve far less than we do. Praying for you as you continue to transition!!

  3. oh my goodness! this is funny and sad at the same time. praying for more... "useful" donations.

  4. I am dying to read this! So, what can we send?

  5. Excellent commentary as usual Rachel! I'm so excited that your blog is up and running. I plan to watch your year unfold with you and all your friends and family. You are off to a great start!

  6. Rachel---I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN! I sorted donated fabric while in Tanzania. Mostly, it was scraps of polyester/knit leisure suit fabric and people's old prom dresses from the '80's. There were even the cut-outs left over from when people had cut out a pattern to make clothing--with the pins and paper pattern scraps still attached. What, exactly, do they think can be done with that? What's more sad is that the missionaries I was helping could have used that space for something that was actually useful in the container they spent thousands of dollars to have shipped. Okay, I'll get off MY soapbox, too:)