Hit up libraries for old books for your book-killing craft projects

November 12 2013 | meggyfin
You don't have to feel bad for those dead books! Here's why. (Photo by: robfosCC BY 2.0)

Love all the book craft projects that are out there (like that book page gift bag or these book planters) but can't handle the idea of being a book-killer?

Don't fret, my pets! One librarian says…

I'm a librarian, and you would think that might make me more attached to old books, but you wouldn't believe how much crap people donate to libraries. Sometimes they can't be added to the collection, and no one will buy them in the book sale — they end up in the dumpster, and honestly, I'd be much happier knowing that they were going to a project like yours. [For your book killing projects,] go to your local library and ask if they have any books that have been donated that are not in good enough condition for the collection or the book sale.

To take it even further, our staffer Kellbot points out that you're actually doing libraries a favor by helping them remove outdated, even potentially harmful, books from their shelves:

Think about it this way: a lot of libraries are filled with old books with incredibly outdated information. A librarian friend of mine is weeding the library he works at, and purging books with titles like "AIDS: What we know" published in 1987.

At best they're funny and outdated, and at worst these old books are a liability. Someone could pick up the book and think that it represents current information.

A few more examples:

  • Gays In The Military: The Moral & Strategic Crisis (1993)
  • Ahdoolo : The biography of Matthew A. Henson, the Negro who accompanied Peary to the North Pole (1963)
  • J. Edgar Hoover : Modern Knight Errant (1959)

So yeah: don't think of it as killing books… think of it as doing your part to help libraries stay current and useful!

Now, let's talk book-killing projects! Where do you get your victims, and what have you made out of dead books?

  1. I have to second this. I work as a Library Assistant and so often people return damaged books, and although they are willing to pay for them they dont want them, we would much rather see them go to good use. We also have to weed out old books and those that have become 'grotty' over time and use which would make excellent sacrifices to the craft cause, one customer even buys then just for her decoupage projects.

    In fact, just thinking about this, my next activity with the kids group will be to craft something with the 'grotty' old books.

    7 agree
    • Another librarian here– our public library has hosted book-killing craft programs. What a great way to cycle items one last time in the library!

      9 agree
  2. I think my feelings about these projects are similar to how PETA members feel about leather. I want to get behind these cool ways of using something that would otherwise be wasted, but it just seems so WRONG.

    That said, I did carry a book purse for a while. I got an awesome purse made out of a hardback Shakespeare Complete Works, and I loved that baby.

    8 agree
    • Think about it this way: a lot of libraries are filled with old books with incredibly outdated information. A librarian friend of mine is weeding the library he works at, and purging books with titles like "AIDS: What we know" published in 1987. At best they're funny and outdated, and at worst they're a liability that someone will pick up the book and think that it represents current information.

      29 agree
      • I just had to come back to report another few titles he just weeded:

        The Coming War With Japan (1991)
        The Case for Going to the Moon (1965)

        And finally, "Giving their all: The Backstreet Boys Rise to the Top."

        If anyone in MA wants to make book purses or other book stuff, I have the ultimate hookup for you.

        4 agree
          • A couple fun ones:

            Music by Computers (1969)
            Better Physical Fitness for Boys (1961). You really gotta see the cover for this one.
            Brad Pitt: Hot and Sexy. Not sure of the year, but there IS a cover pic.
            The Clintons of Arkansas (1993)

            And just in case you're still not sure that weeding libraries is appropriate (I mean, think of the books!), here are a few more volumes Librarian Friend recently purged:

            Gays In The Military: The Moral & Strategic Crisis (1993)
            Ahdoolo : The biography of Matthew A. Henson, the Negro who accompanied Peary to the North Pole (1963)
            J.. Edgar Hoover : Modern Knight Errant (1959)

            Definitely not the sort of reference books needed in a high school library.

            5 agree
  3. Here in Baltimore we have the most AMAZING place called The Book Thing. It's a free bookstore, open every weekend. It's hugely popular: People line up before it opens. All the books are stamped "free, not for resale" and you can take as many as you want. Sometimes you have to hunt for good stuff, but in that respect it's just like thrifting. They accept book donations, so we try to abide by the "boxload in, boxload out" rule because our house is already bursting with books. We got the books for our reception centerpieces there (nothing fancy, just casual piles of books representing our interests), then took them back the following weekend for new people to love.

    7 agree
  4. I'm a librarian, too, and my library sets aside some of the books we weed for projects like this. There's a booksale shelf, a market shelf (there's a book shelf at a market a few blocks away that we restock with free books every week), and an upcycle/discards shelf, for things that are in no condition to be sold or even given away for the purpose of being read, but that might be good for being taken apart.

    1 agrees
  5. Also, if your local library doesn't have any, I can't tell you how many garage/yard sales I've gone to right at the end of them and seen them just TOSS books into the trash. I will ask for the books at the end of the sales and a lot of the time they will just give them to you.

    On another note, I also research the book before I "kill" it. I collect books, so if a book is rare or worth something, I wont kill it, I'll put it in my collection. Usually the books are older novels that are falling apart, but I have come across a few unique books I ended up keeping.

    2 agree
  6. Books are a great source for projects. I have made book purses, very simple project, mainly a little gluing and some ironing of stitch witchery. You can make lamps by screwing a stack together. Or screw them together to create legs for an interesting coffee table. Then there are the book safes. The pages of novels (higher quality paper) is wonderful for papier mache. Used some books pages to create a library bromealiad, usually found in the tropical regions of the library. I made roses for wreath, which everyone wants. I paint on the pages and add them to my art journals. I even turn them into art journals or what is called altered books. You can create small gift bags or cover up a really ugly/damaged piece of furniture

    Paper is one of my favorite medium to work in. I work as the artist in residence at a special recycle center set up for our public schools in our school district. Like the librarians said, we tons of out of date and junk books. I like to demonstrate how you can repurpose the books with things like just white glue and your imagination.

    I must add I do not like the glossy/slick pages. But I just an article where they treat the glossy/colored pages with a cleaning medium to melt the glossy colored pages.

    2 agree
  7. I used old paperback books from my personal stash for our wedding crafts, knowing I would eventually buy them in hardcover. However, the reason behind this was the text and images from the pages would be visible and add a personal element to the decorations. For example, I used an old vampire encyclopedia book and knew the text would be visible for people to see, and I wanted that effect.

    I wanted the personal touch these books added to our crafts and decorations for our centerpiece decorations (pinwheels, paper flowers, etc).

    My friends were all a little upset that I was willing to sacrifice those few precious books, but my reasoning in the end was "paper flowers never die!"

  8. If you have old books, consider a charity such as Salvation Army. I was donating some household goods at my local Salvation Army main donation center, and noticed a HUGE metal bin full of books. (really, like the size they use for demolition of houses). I inquired, and turns out they do scrap the books and get a little money out of them. All those 35 year old textbooks went flying in there one day. Love.

  9. Awesome to see so many librarians here… I have found my people! lol. I'm a library assistant as well and this is exactly where I plan to get my books for making book flowers. My co-worker is in charge of all of our donations and twice yearly huge blow-out book sale, and I know for a fact that she recycles TONS AND TONS of books that get donated. We get thousands of books donated in between sales, but those 1984 encyclopedias? Ain't nobody got a use for them. Old paperbacks that are disintegrating if you're just looking at them? Impossible to hold on to, and why would you? It's live its life well… And don't forget newer books that have sold 20 million copies, and literally everyone owns already. Who needs a second beat up, water stained, broken-binding copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? Those kinds of books are just calling out to be turned into something awesome!! Go forth to libraries my friends! There is more than enough books that have outlived their book-usefulness and are just waiting to be your next craft project.

    1 agrees

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.