Controversy hits East Bay over used books

June 16, 2011 7:04:36 PM PDT
You may have seen the big blue bins outside a local Safeway, encouraging shoppers to donate their books to students. But, now, the organization that collects those books is being accused of making money from the donations and not sending the books to students.

These book donation bins are now at 90 Safeway stores in the bay and in Sacramento, but some local charities worry they're actually hurting them more than helping them.

The signs say "books for charity" specifically for local schools, but a local group, the Friends of the Lafayette Library, says these big blue bins represent unwelcome competition. That is siphoning away donations to their used book store, which raises money for their library.

"We're concerned that other bins that are put out for other groups, that aren't local, might take away from our ability to support our libraries," said Mary McCosker from the Friends of the Lafayette Library.

"I've heard some information about the organization that they really don't give very much to charity," said Betsy Willcuts from the Friends of the Lafayette Library.

The bins bear a sticker that reads "ReadingTree.org." It has a close connection with a for-profit company called Thrift Recycling Management and that company manages and services the bins themselves. According to its website, the Washington-based company is the country's largest seller of used books on Internet sites like Amazon.com.

And in at least some locations, as much as 25 percent of the books collected don't end up at non-profits at all, but rather at TRM for sale on the Internet.

"All I can tell you is the agreement Safeway has," said Safeway spokesperson Susan Houghton. She told ABC7 that's not the arrangement in the Bay Area and went on to say, "The agreement is all books will be donated unless they are too torn or tattered and in that case, they will be recycled. There will be no books that will be sold online."

In the Bay Area, Safeway is working with an Oakland-based organization called Reading Partners.

"These books are going back to the local communities. They are going back to students who need books, want books, and don't generally have access to books," said Desiree Perez Barahona from Reading Partners.

Last week, Oakland schoolchildren received a donation of 2,500 books from these bins, kids who otherwise might go without this summer due to all the library cutbacks there. In Lafayette, Safeway says if schoolchildren don't need the books then the Friends of the Lafayette Library are welcome to them.


Load Comments