INSIDE Chico State
0 September 21, 2000
Volume 31 Number 3
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico




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Jim Dwyer, Library Acquisitions
Jim Dwyer, Library Acquisitions

Thou Shalt Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Research libraries have existed since at least the Great Library of Alexandria. It may have contained hundreds of thousands of scrolls, but we'll never really know since the Romans destroyed it around 48 B.C. One might conjecture, though, that one of those scrolls might have been a gift policy.

A gift policy? You may be surprised to learn that the typical research library probably only keeps about 10 percent of the books donated to it. Most of them are inappropriate to the collection for a variety of reasons. We must divert extensive staff time to sort, search, and decide which few to keep. In other words, as wonderfully well intentioned as the givers may be, their gifts cost the library far more money than they are actually worth. Each "free" book retained may actually cost more than fifty dollars when the high percentage of rejections and staff time is factored in.

Now I sure don't mean to be an ingrate here. It would be terrible if donations ceased entirely since some of the material is perfect for the collection and may be out of print. If only there were a document to assist potential donors in deciding what to donate. Hang on, what's this dusty old papyrus scroll in the corner?

The Ten Commandments of Gifts

  1. Thou shalt always look a gift horse in the mouth, because most lack teeth and hath horrid halitosis.
  2. Thou shalt search the online catalog ( and donate only books that the library owneth not. Though we may love Huck Finn, we hath not room for a whole raft of copies.
  3. Thou shalt not donate books with obsolete information. Belle lettres and history may have a shelf life of decades, but five-year-old health or computer books bear the stench of death.
  4. Thou shalt not donate textbooks. The legal minions of the A.S. Bookstore appre-ciateth not the competition.
  5. Thou shalt not donate a frayed, broken, or decaying book. It frequently costeth more to repair than it is worth. Acid decay can spread to other books in a virtual flameless fire of destruction.
  6. Thou shalt not donate pop fiction, paperbacks, or cookbooks, which the library hath in abundance and which resideth more comfortably in the home.
  7. Thou shalt not donate phonorecords, a technology now as obsolete as cuneiform tablets. Classical and world music CDs beith a whole other story, though!
  8. Thou shalt not donate books that have been written or drawn in. Precious as thy thoughts may be, this constituteth not an "intellectual exchange."
  9. Thou shalt not confuse "unique" with "valuable."
  10. Thou shalt join thy local public and academic Friends of the Library, where donations of time and money are always appropriate and greatly appreciated.

Please bring those newer hardbacks or rare books to Room 314, Monday - Friday, 9-4. Those old paperbacks, textbooks, and records are best donated directly to a Friends of the Meriam Library group for a book sale. This way the library will bear almost no expense, the Friends will make money, and the books will be incredible bargains to the buyers. Donations to the Friends may be brought to the main circulation desk. For more information about the Friends, call 898-5862. To make donations to the Chico Branch of the Butte County Library, call 891-2762.

Jim Dwyer, Library Acquisitions


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