Hello Book Thing Friends!

We have several updates and an event announcement to share.

First off, a huge thank you to the volunteers who organized our July outdoor giveaway and made it happen despite the oppressive heat!  We gave away nearly 1,900 books. Thank you likewise to the patrons who waited patiently in the hot sun for their turn to browse the outdoor book display. We learned from this event and plan to replicate it in the future — pandemic and weather permitting — albeit with minor adjustments.

Book giveaway for school teachers: Saturday, August 15

Pandemic restrictions permitting, we will hold a book giveaway event on August 15 that is exclusively limited to K-12 school teachers. We will keep our website and the Facebook event page updated as we determine more details in the next two weeks.

  • Face coverings are required.
  • You must show your employee ID from the public or private K-12 school where you work. Teacher IDs will be checked at the entrance.
  • We will not be accepting any book donations.
  • We are tentatively planning to hold this event indoors.
  • If held indoors…
    • We will allow 25 teachers to enter on the hour each hour from 9am to 4 pm. The first morning entrance is 9am, and the last afternoon entrance is 4pm.
    • Patrons will have 45 minutes to browse our stacks, select the books they need, and exit the building. This time limit will be strictly enforced.
    • Upon exiting, patrons will form an outdoor line to count their books and sign out.
    • If all slots are taken and all patrons use the whole 45 minutes, we will be able to serve 200 teachers.
    • If a patron exits early, a new patron who is waiting may enter on “stand by” and use the remainder of the 45 minute time slot. This new patron will not be permitted to stay beyond the end of the time slot, or to extend into the next time slot, or to hold their original place in line for a later time slot. “Stand by” entry means you accept that you will have less than 45 minutes to browse.
    • The restroom sink will be available for hand-washing. The toilet is (yet again) out of order. Please plan accordingly.
  • Please note: If the evolving coronavirus situation makes indoor events feel unsafe to the volunteers who will be staffing this event — or if new restrictions prohibit indoor events — then this giveaway will be moved outdoors or cancelled entirely.
  • Should we need to hold the event outdoors, it will be run using a similar format to our July 26 outdoor giveaway. But rather than giving away totally unsorted books, we will ensure a mixture of education and other subjects that we hope will be more relevant and useful to educators.
  • Bags and boxes will not be provided: patrons must bring their own containers to hold the books they select.
  • We are not able to accept walk-up volunteers at this event. If you are interested in volunteering on the 15th, please fill out the Contact form. We anticipate staffing this book give-away primarily with experienced volunteers, but we will get in touch if we need extra hands.

I need books to help my children learn, but I’m not a school teacher. What about me?

Don’t worry, we know that homeschoolers are also gearing up for back-to-school season, and that many parents will be supervising their children’s remote learning this fall!  We will hold a separate book giveaway event in late August or early September to support home learning activities.  However, we are doing the teachers’ event first in honor of The Book Thing’s original roots serving public school teachers. And since each classroom teacher reaches many students, providing materials to teachers as they prepare for the year is an efficient way to maximize the positive impact of our extremely limited staff and volunteer resources. The smaller scale of a teachers-only giveaway will also help us learn and prepare for a more general education-focused book giveaway soon.

What else have we been working on?

We omitted administrative announcements in July to focus on our giveaway event, so we owe you an update:

  • The Book Thing is fully up-to-date on its tax paperwork for the first time in four years! Our 2019 annual return was submitted by the July 15 deadline, as was our 2020 annual report for the State of Maryland. As we previously reported, we finished our overdue 2016-2018 returns and sent them off in June. We are finally where we need to be for our reinstatement application.
  • We are actively collaborating with the law firm DLA Piper on our reinstatement application. The long and complex IRS form is complete, thanks to their pro bono help. In addition to this form, we must submit a justification to explain the failures that led to our loss of nonprofit status, and how we have addressed them. We are still working with our lawyers and CPA to finalize the text of this explanation. We aim to submit the full reinstatement application package by August 15.
  • In the 4.5 months since restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 took effect, we have given away more than 7,400 books in response to bulk donation requests from schools and other non-profit organizations that are able to continue their operations despite the shutdown.

What’s next?

As mentioned above, we are still working with DLA Piper to complete and submit an application for retroactive reinstatement of our nonprofit status. Until that application is finished, it will remain our top priority. After everything has been submitted, we’ll be waiting for an IRS ruling. That will probably take at least 5 months, although we don’t know for sure.

We will continue to respond to bulk donation requests and plan public book giveaway events when possible. We will try to schedule at least one day this fall when we accept book donations in small numbers — repeat, in SMALL numbers. (Please don’t expect to drop off a whole vehicle-load of books.) We will also turn our attention to Board development, strengthening our team. We will work on pending questions about budgeting, strategic planning, and future regulatory compliance. And we are still trying to figure out how we can safely allow volunteers on site to resume periodic book sorting and shelving operations, given health concerns and that we have no staff member who can supervise them.

What can you do?

  • Do you have ideas for how we can safely give away books with minimal volunteer support? Do you work with an organization that can accept a generic “bulk” donation of books and distribute them to communities in need? Please contact us!
  • If you can, please donate. Your financial support will help us to survive this challenging time.
  • If you have grant writing expertise, we’d still love to hear from you via the Contact form. We want to be ready to seek out appropriate levels of nonprofit sponsorship as soon as we’re eligible to do so. Thank you to those who have contacted us so far.
  • If you have prior Board experience and/or relevant expertise, please reach out. We are still collecting expressions of interest and expect to turn our attention to Board development activities after our reinstatement application has been submitted. Experience with strategy, non-profit management, accounting, grant-writing, legal counsel, and the like is particularly valuable.
  • Please stay tuned. We will continue to use our website and social media to keep you informed.

Wishing everyone a fun, safe, and restful continuation of summer.

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

To donate, you can:

Click: bookthing.org/donate

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 are not tax-deductible.  We are currently working to get our nonprofit status reinstated, but the process is not yet complete. Please consult a tax professional if you need information about how retroactive reinstatement might affect donations made during the revocation period.