Hello Book Thing friends,

At our November opening, we recorded 564 sign-outs totaling 14,950 books and 373 non-books. We also accepted donations of 10,383 books and 1,496 non-books – the most book donations in a single day since the start of the pandemic!

We send out a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has volunteered, donated books, supported us financially, or contributed wishlist items this year. Without you, we wouldn’t be here. If you do charitable giving at the end of the year, we hope you will consider supporting The Book Thing’s mission: putting unwanted books into the hands of those who want them, for free. Please visit our Donate page for more information.

Upcoming events

December marks the end of the year, and thus the last event in our series of book giveaways falling on the second full weekend of the month throughout 2022. Our events always alternate between Saturday and Sunday.

  • Sun, Dec 11 – 9a-2p/5p – limited book donations accepted until 2pm, last entrance for browsing is at 4pm, building closes at 5pm. Please see below for details.

We’re happy to share that our children’s/YA section is restocked again this month thanks in part to another generous donation of books from Discover Books.

Dates for book giveaways and donation days in early 2023 will be forthcoming in a future announcement. We don’t yet know whether we’ll be open in January, but don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere!

Indoor book giveaway: Sunday, Dec 11, 9am-5pm

We will allow patrons into the building to select their own books on Dec 11th, using a timed-entry format. As usual, all lines will form outdoors. Dress for the weather, bring an umbrella if it’s rainy, etc. Here’s what else you need to know:

  • Please remember that masks are still required at The Book Thing for all patrons. (If you have spare masks you want to donate to us, that would be amazing – we’re running low since lots of people forget to bring one!)
  • 80 patrons will be permitted to enter on the hour each hour from 9am to 4pm. The first entrance will be at 9am, and the last entrance at 4pm. All patrons must exit before 5pm.
  • The line is always longest for the morning entrances.
  • Our system is first-come, first-served; there are no reservations – just come get in line!
  • Patrons will have 55 minutes to browse our stacks, select their books, and exit the building. The time limit will be strictly enforced. You may get back in line.
  • Upon exiting, patrons will form an outdoor line to count their books and sign out (even if it’s raining).
  • If a patron exits early, a new patron who is waiting may enter “on standby” and use the remainder of the 55 minute time slot. This new patron will not be permitted to stay beyond the end of the time slot, extend into the next time slot, or hold their original place in line for a later time slot. Standby entry means you accept that you will have less than 55 minutes to browse.
  • Please don’t be deterred by our timed-entry format. It helps keep the line moving so that you get a chance to browse sooner, and it lets us serve more patrons.
  • Patrons are responsible for their own social distancing inside the building.
  • One parent may be accompanied by a maximum of three children, and every child must be accompanied by an adult. For everyone’s safety, please ensure your children are well-supervised – our kids’ section is always very busy and crowded! Also, please make sure your child wears a mask.
  • Patrons will enter through the red room door and exit through the blue room door.
  • The restroom will be available, but you will not be permitted to enter the building to use it except when it’s your turn to be inside browsing for books. Please plan accordingly.
  • We have lots and lots of spare boxes available to hold your books!
  • We expect to be very busy and crowded. Out of courtesy to other patrons and to facilitate traffic flow, please leave your large boxes/wagons/etc. outside the exit door and fill them an armful at a time, rather than carting them around with you.

Book donations: 9a-2p

We will open the book donation window on Dec 11 from 9am to 2pm only. We welcome all book donations, and especially popular fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, classics, non-diet cookbooks, English dictionaries, and Bibles. We’re finding it hard to keep these shelves full from our warehouse stock alone.

  • Book donation hours are 9am-2pm on 12/11. If we have to cancel the book giveaway for any reason, the book donation hours will also be canceled.
  • The donation limit is 6 boxes per family. Boxes must be small enough that one person can lift them when full.
  • We accept all types of books except encyclopedia sets.
  • We accept all types of popular and hobby magazines, but we can’t accept sets of academic/technical/professional journals.
  • We accept all types of mixed media except audio cassette tapes. Reminder: no home-made content, please.
  • Please don’t bring us books that are moldy, sticky, stinky, or missing pages/covers.
  • If you need a donation receipt, please mention that right up front. We’ll need to count your books separately. Thanks in advance for your patience!
  • Unfortunately, we can’t come pick up book donations, nor can we help you unload them from your vehicle.
  • If you have more than 6 boxes of books that you wish to donate, please bring 6 boxes on 12/11 and Contact us separately about the rest.
  • We can only accept book donations as outlined above. If you leave books outside of donation hours, you may be cited by the City for illegal dumping.

Year-end recap

Looking back, 2022 has been a busy year for The Book Thing!

After holding just six donation days between the start of the pandemic and summer 2022, we’ve been delighted to accept book donations every month since August. The off-site warehouse isn’t empty yet, but we finally have room to be taking in fresh books – yay! So far this year, we’ve counted in more than 65k book donations. Thank you so much for your contributions. If you need information about donation days, please check our Donate page.

We estimate that about half the books that pass through The Book Thing are for children and teens – helping teachers, homeschoolers, and young readers. Maryland Book Bank and Discover Books both donate kids’ books to TBT in bulk to help us keep this section restocked.

TBT has already given away more than 130k books so far in 2022. December is always a big month for book adoptions, so that number will only grow: by the end of the year, we expect to give away about 72 tons of books! Every one of those books gets handled multiple times by volunteers as it moves through our sorting processes to end up on the shelves and go home with a happy patron. We absolutely love giving away books, and we are so grateful to be part of a book-loving community, but there’s no denying it takes a lot of in-person, on-site, hands-on labor.

In January 2022, we were thrilled to welcome new volunteers for training for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Thirty new volunteers have completed the initial training series so far, and a handful have moved on to more advanced tasks. In total, more than 110 volunteers have collectively given some 5,100 hours of their time this year… and we still have a month to go! If you are interested in volunteering with us in 2023, please fill out the Contact form.

Lots of people ask when we will be open more often. They point out that for many years, TBT was open every weekend. Understandably, patrons wonder when we might get back to that level of activity. The short answer is that we don’t know: we can’t see far enough into the future.

The challenge is budget and staffing. To be open more often, we need enough labor to keep the shelves reasonably restocked and to staff the hours we are open. Unfortunately, TBT can’t afford to hire anyone – recruiting a staff member is a commitment the Board doesn’t take lightly! – and at our current volunteer levels, once a month is the best we can do.

In the years when TBT was open every weekend, we had an executive director. Not only did he work countless hours sorting books, he was always around to supervise volunteers and direct a small number of paid part-time helpers. These days, financial constraints mean the executive directorship is vacant and The Book Thing is 100% volunteer-run. The efforts of our two part-time sales staff continue to pay the insurance and keep the lights on, but all other functions — from sorting books and training new volunteers to management, scheduling, and janitorial duties — are performed by volunteers. Even our most devoted (volunteer) supporters have only so many hours they can give to the organization. Until we’re in a position to hire a part-time coordinator or operations manager of some sort, it will be very difficult for TBT to open more frequently.

The Board and dedicated volunteers continue to work to secure TBT’s long-term sustainability. Progress is slow and steady. In December of 2019, we announced a temporary closure to address serious organizational challenges. By December 2020, we had earned a full retroactive reinstatement of our nonprofit status, and we were putting books out in boxes in the back parking lot for outdoor book giveaways to serve patrons despite the pandemic. This time last year, patrons were browsing inside. We’re now serving 500+ patrons a month and accepting book donations every time we’re open. We promise we’ll keep building one step at a time — what we can, when we can. Thank you for your understanding and support. As always, please direct any and all inquiries to the Board of Directors via the Contact form on our website.

Wishing you all the peace and joy of the season, we remain yours in books.