Hello, Book Thing Supporters! Two weeks ago, we shared an important update. As promised, we are following up with more information.

First, in case you missed it…

The bottom line is that The Book Thing we all love is going through a challenging transition. In order to restructure, refocus, and reconnect with our incredible community members (like you), we went into a “hibernation period” effective January 1, 2020. We will need your support during this period to ensure we can continue to offer free books in the future to readers of all ages. Unfortunately, this hibernation means we need to temporarily close to the public for now, in an effort to ensure our future sustainability. This includes weekend browsing and the donation window.

What comes next?

  • The last day for public browsing and book donations was Sunday 12/29. We won’t be open for book donations or regular weekend browsing hours until further notice.
  • In the next few weeks, we plan to announce WHEN we WILL be open for public browsing and/or book donations.
  • We are working to schedule volunteer hours, so please stay tuned. We will still desperately need volunteers to help us with the usual tasks of moving, sorting, stamping, and shelving books.
  • We will use Facebook and our website to keep you informed.
  • We do NOT intend to change the fundamental nature of The Book Thing: lots of free books!

The biggest factor driving this decision is that we became aware that we lost our nonprofit status. We are currently working with an accountant to file back paperwork, achieve retroactive nonprofit reinstatement, and implement procedures to prevent anything like this from happening in the future.

There are ways you can help us during this time. Now more than ever, we need you to support us and believe in us.

  • Come volunteer! (See above for more info on this — and thank you to those who have already contacted us about volunteering; we’ll be in touch soon!)
  • If you can, please donate: Your financial support will help us to pay for professional tax/legal advice.
  • Help us find ways to better connect with the local community and other Baltimore organizations.
  • Please stay tuned. We will continue to update our website and social media. We will be providing updates on a regular basis to keep all of you informed of our progress.

We feel confident in our community and the support you provide as we enter this transition period. Your help will be essential to ensure we can provide Baltimore with free books for years to come.

How did it come to this?

The Book Thing’s mission is and has always been to put unwanted books in the hands of people who want them. Together with the original Board, our founder Russell Wattenberg brought this vision to life with the creation of The Book Thing as a nonprofit in August 1999. Under his leadership, it became a much-loved Baltimore institution. Russell left the directorship this past summer. We want to carry his amazing legacy forward for another twenty years. However, over the last few months, the Board of Directors has come to understand that we need to take time to focus on plotting a sustainable path forward for the organization. It’s time for a strategic reboot, bringing the The Book Thing in line with modern best practices for nonprofits and securing its financial stability.

This past August, we learned that the IRS was revoking our nonprofit status. The reason for this automatically triggered revocation was that our required nonprofit tax paperwork had not been filed for three years in a row. We sincerely regret this lapse and have already taken steps to understand how it came to pass and ensure that it won’t happen again. We are currently working with an accountant to file the overdue returns and achieve retroactive reinstatement of our nonprofit status. Fortunately, there is a standard IRS procedure to follow, although the process takes time.

In the interim, we had desperately hoped to stay open. These last few months, we’ve given it our best shot. You have borne with us through restrictions on book donations and grueling efforts to move our book backlog to the new warehouse space. We thank you — our incredible community of visitors, neighbors, supporters, and volunteers — for your forbearance, hard work, and donations of all kinds. However, we have come to the conclusion that the present situation is logistically and financially impossible. We can’t afford to pay the bills to keep the lights on, and the staff to keep the doors open. As stated on our website, the Book Thing has always sold a tiny percentage of donated books to support the nonprofit. Unfortunately, this small revenue stream is insufficient to cover our expenses. The hibernation will allow us to restructure and, once we’ve completed the nonprofit reinstatement process, to seek out an appropriate level of nonprofit sponsorship through grants and other fundraising mechanisms.

In an era of digital media and rapid change, The Book Thing has been the reliable, home-grown standby: weekend after weekend, always open, books for everyone, take as many as you can. Even after the devastating fire in 2016, insurance and an outpouring of community support made it possible to rebuild and reopen. Now more than ever, we need you to support us and believe in us. Come volunteer when we announce volunteer hours. Without paid staff or public browsing hours, we still need to keep sorting books so that we’ll be able to reopen. If you can, please donate. Your financial support will help us to pay for building-related costs and professional tax/legal advice to get our nonprofit status retroactively reinstated. Help us find ways to connect better with the local community and other Baltimore organizations. Books are for everyone, and we know there are lots of readers and future readers out there! If you have prior Board experience and/or relevant expertise, please reach out. We need to expand our new Board of Directors to strengthen our strategic decision-making with people who have experience with nonprofits, accounting, fundraising, and the like. And please stay tuned. We’ll use Facebook and our website to keep you informed.

With best wishes for a happy, healthy, and successful new year, we remain yours in books.

Please direct all inquiries about this statement to the Board of Directors via the Contact form on our website.

To donate, you can:

Click: bookthing.org/donate
Stop by when we re-open to contribute to the donation box.
Mail a check to:
The Book Thing
3001 Vineyard Lane
Baltimore, MD 21218

Please Note: Due to the revocation of our nonprofit status, donations made after 5/15/19 may not be tax-deductible. Please consult a tax professional.