Hello Book Thing friends,

At our November opening, we recorded 732 sign-outs totaling 13,736 books and 1,051 non-books. We also accepted donations of 10,287 books and 983 non-books.

We express our sincere 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 2023 series of book giveaways falling on the second full weekend of the month. Limited book donation hours coincide with each public opening. Our events alternate between Saturday and Sunday.

  • Sun, Dec 10 – 9a-2p/5p – details below

Dates for book giveaways and donation days in early 2024 will be forthcoming in a future announcement. We will continue the “second full weekend of the month” pattern. Please expect a donation day but no giveaway in January.

Indoor book giveaway: Sunday, December 10th, 9am-5pm

We will allow patrons into the building to browse for books on Dec 10th, 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:

  • 105 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.
  • Our system is first-come, first-served; there are no reservations – just come get in line!
  • 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.
  • The line is always long for the morning entrances… but for the last few months, there has often been little to no wait in the middle of the day and in the afternoon.
  • 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.
  • One parent may be accompanied by a maximum of three children, and all children must be accompanied by an adult. For everyone’s safety, please ensure your children are well-supervised – our kids’ section is always busy and crowded!
  • 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 of spare boxes available to hold your books!
  • 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.
  • Masks are no longer required indoors at TBT; masking is optional but welcome.
  • Please note: TBT welcomes trained service animals but is not a pet-friendly location.

Book donations: 9a-2p

We will open the book donation window on December 10th from 9am to 2pm only.  We welcome all book donations, and especially popular fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, classics, non-diet cookbooks, science topics, English dictionaries, Bibles, and books for children/teens. We find it hard to keep these shelves restocked.

  • Book donation hours are 9am-2pm on 12/10. If we have to cancel the book giveaway for any reason, the book donation hours will also be canceled.
  • The donation limit is 7 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.
  • Due to space limitations, we are not accepting media items this month.
  • Please don’t bring us books that are moldy, sticky, stinky, or missing pages/covers.
  • If you need a tax receipt for your donation, 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 7 boxes of books that you wish to donate, please bring 7 boxes on 12/10 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, 2023 has been a year of progress for The Book Thing!

After a long hiatus, we are delighted to have been able to accept incoming book donations every month in 2023. We still have a few books in the off-site warehouse, but new donations are “fresher” and better in just about every sense! So far this year, we’ve counted in more than 165k book donations.  Thank you so much for your contributions.  If you need information about donation days, please check our Donate page.

TBT has served more than 700 patrons on average at each of our monthly openings this year.  So far, we’ve given just shy of 160k books, so we’ve already exceeded our 2022 totals. December is always a big month for book adoptions, so that number will only grow.  We estimate that about half the books that pass through The Book Thing are for children and teens – helping teachers, homeschoolers, and young readers.  We are grateful to Maryland Book Bank for donating kids’ books in bulk to help us keep this section restocked.

Every book we give away is 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 it does take a lot of in-person, on-site, hands-on labor. TBT volunteers are what make it all possible.

This year we ran 25 small-group trainings for new volunteers.  Fifty new volunteers completed their initial training series, and a handful have moved on to more advanced tasks.  In total, more than 150 volunteers have collectively given more than 6,900 hours of their time this year… and we still have a month to go!  If you are interested in volunteering with us in 2024, 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 still don’t know: we just can’t see far enough into the future.  Last year, we explained how budget and staffing are a challenge. To be open more often, we need enough labor to keep the shelves reasonably restocked and to staff the hours we are open. This year, we’ve been working on that budget/staffing challenge.

We are delighted to share that TBT hired a part-time operations and volunteer manager in late October, thanks in part to a grant from the Abell Foundation. This isn’t a silver bullet:  one part-time employee can’t support opening every weekend.  But as our new person gets up to speed, TBT will be able to welcome volunteers on-site more often. That’s a big first step towards being open more often, because it means we’ll be able to sort more books and restock the shelves faster. It’s also crucial for TBT’s sustainability as an organization, since even the most devoted volunteers have only so many hours they can give.

The Board and dedicated volunteers continue to work to secure TBT’s long-term future.  We renew our promise that 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.