Volume 14, Issue 33 ~ August 17 - August 23, 2006

Breathing New Life into Old Books

B.I.G. Books Rotarians: Jeanie Hawn; Bob Whitcomb, Ed Kumian, Rob Smith, Joyce Edelson, Don Gantzer, Eric Ward, Bob Olson and Mike Dunn.

How your kids’ school books travel round the world

by Carrie Steele and Shawn Nisson

As schools open their doors, area students will be cracking open thousands of fresh textbooks. In turn, hundreds of thousands of old books are retired by county schools.

Each year, a slate of books is replaced by Anne Arundel County Public Schools. Used book buyers from around the country — private vendors who go through an interview and bidding process to do business with the school system — board school buses to tour and bid on the county’s used bounty. But that’s not the fate of all old schoolbooks.

“If during the year a school finds more textbooks stashed in a closet, those go to the warehouse,” said Susan Bowen, Anne Arundel County schools’ director of budget and finance.

Those books begin a longer journey to the hands of eager students in Third World countries. Two of the charities that route our students’ used books are World Bank in Washington, D.C., and more locally, the Books for International Goodwill program of the Parole Rotary Club.

As many as some 30,000 have been donated at one time, estimates warehouse assistant Jack Dupreay.

At Rotary’s current warehouse in Wayson’s Corner, the books are sorted into three categories: college, high school or elementary. Shrink-wrapped, Anne Arundel’s old school books are shipped overseas by the palletful.

In 12 years, Parole Rotary has put over two million books into the hands of school children in countries where old books are valuable.

“About 75 percent of our textbooks come from Anne Arundel County Schools and the Naval Academy,” said B.I.G. books vice president Bob Olsen. This summer, eight regular volunteers plus some 50 one-time volunteers are “packing shipments to Nigeria, Kenya and Namibia to be sent out over the next two months.”

Each box of textbooks costs $70 to $80 to mail across the world, with an average shipment costing some $4,000. School books are only part of the bounty collected by Parole Rotary.

To help pay for the school book shipments, the Rotary holds book sales four to six times a year.

Donations of already-read and never-read books — novels, cookbooks, histories, biographies, children’s — pour in from readers cleaning out their bookshelves. Books go up on Rotary shelves for sale after volunteers sort and alphabetize them. From these private collections, shoppers may find last year’s best-seller or a vintage tome.

“It’s pretty popular. We sell probably 4,500 books on a Saturday morning,” says Olsen of the 15-year-old sale that offers up some 60,000 books each quarter. Prices range from 75 cents for paperbacks to $1.50 for hardcover books, to $25 for a bag of books.

Shop the next sale on August 19 from 8am to 2pm (see 8 Days a Week, page 25).

Or drop off your used book any time of the day or night at the Triangle Tobacco Warehouse, 1325 Old Marlboro Rd., Wayson’s Corner; or at a drop-off shed at Extra Space Storage on West Street near the Exxon Station. Reach Bob Olsen at 410-349-1183 or 410-323-7559.

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