As the old saying goes, "beggars can't be choosers". They are words the folks at the Cedar Rapids Public Library do their best to live by, but they also want to remind you that they do have standards.

Lots of us have spent the pandemic cleaning out our closets, attic, and storage rooms because, well, there's been nothing better to do, and it's safe to say, the idea of "spring cleaning" has rarely sounded better after this winter. If your clutter includes books, CDs, or other materials the library could benefit from, they'd love to have it. On a few conditions (mostly "good" or "gently used".)

The Cedar Rapids Gazette spoke to Libby Slappey, who is the President of the Friends of the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Slappey says their volunteers sort through tens of thousands of donations every year, and about 40 percent of the stuff they take in goes straight to the recycle bin because it's "unusable".

The Friends of the Hiawatha Public Library say they have had to toss up to 75 percent of their donations.

What constitutes "damaged" material?

The guidelines that determine what is "unusable" are pretty basic: missing pages, broken binding, worn or torn covers, water damage, dog-eared covers or pages or dirty covers, and pages excessive wear.

Mold, odors, smoke, mouse droppings, being outdated, or simply not worth a dollar or two and they won't accept it. That last one might be in the eye of the beholder so at the very least, check with them in person before you donate.

What can I donate (and not donate)?

Obviously, no one uses print encyclopedias anymore so forget about donating those, along with school yearbooks.

Despite the resurgence in vinyl record sales and usage, they don't want yours, especially if it skips. Same with VHS tapes, audio cassettes, and 8-tracks. And that "Windows 98 for Dummies" book? Obviously a hard pass.

You're probably not giving away brand-spanking-new items unless you just don't have the space (which, by the way, is another reason they are a little selective at the library) because why would you do that? But basically, anything published or released as new within the last five years is considered "current".

A full list of specific "do's" and "dont's" for donations to the library can be found here. On the other hand, instead of getting rid of stuff, you may want more.

Looking to add your collection?

Visit the library for its Dollar Day Sales. All books and media are $1 each on the first Saturdays of March and April (March 5 and April 2) from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library (450 Fifth Ave. SE). Prior to that, there are a couple of used book sales, one at the downtown Cedar Rapids Library this Saturday, February 5, and another one next Saturday, February 12 at the Cherry Building (329 10th Ave. SE).

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