Old Books Make for a 'Better World'

Northern's Olson Library recently entered into a partnership with Better World Books (BWB), a business dedicated to getting more mileage out of used books by turning them into funding for non-profit literacy programs, and providing an environment-friendly recycling option. BWB was founded in 2001 by University of Notre Dame graduates heading a book drive.

SaraJane Tompkins (AIS) said that Olson Library is in the process of weeding out unusable books from its collection. These materials are being sorted according to the criteria set by the company, which are basically intended to keep books that are falling apart out of rotation.

Now in its second month of participating in the program, Tompkins said that 92 percent of the books withdrawn from NMU’s collection will be sent to Better World Books.

“They’re very on the ball,” Tompkins said. “I have a really good feeling about their cohesiveness. Everyone seems to be concerned about the whole package, including how the customer is being served.”

Every quarter the library will receive a statement detailing the success with which BWB has resold the books. Olson receives a 20 percent share of whatever profits are made from the resale, plus another 15 percent to donate to a charity of its choice, Tompkins said.

“Right now we have no investment at all, and for no investment we may be getting some money back, which is a great thing because the library is always trying to figure out how to stretch the dollar,” Tompkins said.

Better World Books attempts to locate buyers for the donated books for a year. If they cannot sell them by then, they recycle them. Nothing goes to waste. According to the company’s Web site, one in seven books is donated to developing countries in Africa.

“It’s kind of an excited group of young people trying to make a difference with simple things,” Tompkins said, “and I think it’s a good thing for us to support that.”


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Updated: December 1, 2005

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