CLEVELAND, Ohio – COVID-19 has given homeowners and tenants some time to tackle large decluttering projects.
An unexpected result of the tidying up movement saw libraries in northeastern Ohio suspend acceptance of book donations, citing the sudden rush in used book donations and a general lack of space. Others said the initial panic over the spread of COVID-19 across surfaces forced them to reduce acceptance of exterior materials and limited the number of used book sales held to offload excess books.
Libraries like the Cleveland Public Library and Cuyahoga County Public Library have not accepted book donations since the pandemic began in mid-March 2020. Officials at the Lee Road branch of the Public Library in Cleveland Heights-University Heights say they’ve felt the impact of people cleared of clutter from their homes, receiving numerous donations since the winter of 2021.
The Shaker Heights Public Library had to halt donations in April 2020 because it knew there would be no room for books as it continues to renovate the building this summer.
Cleveland.com spoke to officials from five area library systems and the Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank to find out how they currently handle donations.
Cleveland Children’s Book Bank
The Cleveland Children’s Book Bank accepts donations for used children’s books, the organization wrote in an email. The children’s book bank was only closed from March to May last year.
Kids’ Book Bank accepts donations at its warehouse on Perkins Avenue from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The book bank also accepts donations from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, as well as donations to various outdoor bin locations.
“We have created a safe and efficient system for sorting and distributing books during the pandemic,” the organization wrote.
Cleveland Public Library
The Cleveland Public Library stopped receiving donations when it was first closed due to the pandemic in mid-March 2020. The library is now accepting book donations, spokeswoman Kelly Woodard said in an email .
Cuyahoga County Public Library
The Cuyahoga County Public Library does not currently accept book donations but plans to resume them next month, spokeswoman Hallie Rich said.
During the pandemic, the library quarantined books and other materials checked out and returned by members, so there was a lack of space for donated books. The library stopped quarantining books in early June.
“We anticipate that when we reopen our doors to reserve donations, we’ll likely see a lot of community activity bringing in things,” Rich said. “So we’re really trying to prepare for this. “
Cleveland Heights-University Heights Branch Libraries Lee Road
Book donations were piling up so much for the Lee Road branch of Heights Libraries that the library temporarily suspended donations last Friday. The library hopes to start accepting used books again in the fall, spokeswoman Sheryl Banks said.
The library resumed accepting donations in the winter of 2021 after hanging them for most of last year. When people got the green light to donate their books, they didn’t hesitate.
“We noticed that during the shutdown everyone was stuck at home, and I think a lot of people used that time to declutter their homes,” Banks said. “We got a lot of calls… when we stopped receiving donations, I think people got a little freaked out, like, ‘What am I going to do with all this? So when we started accepting again, we were really bombarded. And I think for a while we were the only library system in the area that received donations, and I think that’s another reason we have so many now and have to stop temporarily.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lee Road branch is reportedly hosting a biannual mega book sale. But when COVID hit, he wasn’t sure if he was hosting such a big event. Without the sale, the books have piled up, leaving the library with donations that it still needs to sell.
Still, the library holds smaller-scale sales every first Friday of every month, where shoppers can bring a bag of groceries and fill it with books for five dollars, Banks said. She added that the first Friday sales are helping to reduce inventory a bit.
“It’s kind of like we’ve hit a saturation point, and we’re sticking to it because there are books coming out,” Banks said. “It’s like you’re in a bathtub and the water is coming in, but it’s also flowing slowly, and you’re able to strike a balance. That’s kind of where we are now.
Along with the monthly Friday sales, friends of the library group sold rare books on eBay. The group also donates some of their books to Better World Books, an online bookstore. They also provide books to libraries in prisons in the region. The Lee Road branch is also partnering with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank for a monthly pantry where it distributes books as well as fresh produce, Banks said.
Banks said friends of the library group are expected to hold a semi-mega sale in late August to help clear some inventory, and then another is in the works for the weekend after Black Friday. Banks said organizers were waiting to see what restrictions it might have for the August sale, but added that six people are allowed into the store for both the first Friday sales and people need to disinfect themselves hands.
Rocky River Public Library
The Rocky River Public Library halted donations in March 2020 and resumed formally accepting them earlier this month, said outreach coordinator Stacey Hayman.
Hayman added that people were able to bring in limited book donations during the pandemic, but due to lack of space, the library has not announced that patrons can do so. The library’s women’s committee is hosting an ongoing book sale at the library, which could help clear some of the backlogs, Hayman said.
“He took over,” Hayman said. “This past spring, probably a little more than we expected. People deposit donations. They are sorted, there is more space and they go faster to sell books. And people buy more often.
Main branch of Shaker Heights
The main branch of the Shaker Heights library system has halted donations due to its ongoing renovations, spokeswoman Margaret Simon said.
Simon said the Bertram Woods branch does not currently accept book donations.
Shaker Heights began renovating its main library in June 2020, with renovations expected to be completed in October.
Shaker Heights Library also has a semi-annual sale; one sale usually takes place in April and the other in October. It canceled its April 2020 sale due to COVID-19. The library has donated books to churches and schools and has not accepted new donations since April 2020.
Simon said the library was running out of space to hold donated books due to the renovations. In addition, they quarantined returned library books. Simon said she expects the library to start accepting donations again in 2022 and hopefully have a spring sale.