Where To Donate Books In Chicago

Recycling often gets the spotlight, but it's last in the "reduce, reuse, recycle" motto for a reason. Reducing the amount of trash we produce, and reusing things to their fullest, are our first lines of defense in conserving natural resources.

For example, take books. Over 2.4 million printed books were sold in 2016. Add those to the millions of packed bookshelves in homes across the US, and we're talking about a massive amount of resources. Resources ripe for straight-up reuse.

Consider a used book's true value for a minute. Really! Because they're kind of the perfect reuse item. Whether donating or buying second-hand they hold the same appeal:

  •  Books tell of a time but are timeless. 
  • They're constructed for repeated use.  
  • Their words offer equal power to the first reader and the last. 

Ready to donate some books? Here's the inside scoop on three Chicago organizations putting used books to great use. 

1. Chicago Books to Women in Prison 

Operating since 2002, this Chicago non-profit ships books to incarcerated women across the U.S.  In 2016, they provided over 9,500 books to women in prison.  

Chicago Books to Women in Prison can only accept soft bound books. They prefer books published within the last decade. New or nearly new books are appreciated, as some prisons require them. 

Donate these:

  • Large print fiction and non-fiction
  • Dictionaries - English, English/Spanish, Crossword puzzle dictionaries
  • Crafts (such as crochet, beading, card making and other paper crafts) 
  • Painting, Drawing, Calligraphy
  • Recovery and Addiction Books 
  • Mental Health, Depression, PTSD
  • A wide range of Legal Books
  • Blank Journals

They also have a regularly updated 'Special Requests' and 'Amazon Wishlist' for books that are rarely donated but have a high, sometimes urgent demand. Religion and law-themed books are popular.

Not these: 

  • Hardbound books (though there are exceptions for sellable quality books)
  • English fiction (except in large print), because they receive a steady flow 
  • Textbooks more than 5 years old 

How it works: 

DROP OFF:  4511 N. Hermitage Ave. (map)
HOURS: 2p-5p Saturdays and Sundays
WEBSITE: www.chicagobwp.org

2. Pilsen Community Books 

With books stacked from foot to ceiling (and library ladders!), you might end up buying more books than you donate at this popular bookstore.  If you want to avoid the temptation, they offer free pickup for larger collections. 

Your donations to Pilsen Community books are either donated directly to Pilsen area schools or sold to purchase new books for Pilsen classrooms. Teachers get to hand-pick the books they receive.  

Donate these:  

  • Adult and children's books
  • Books in very good condition

Not these:

  • Encyclopedias 
  • Magazines
  • Pre-collegiate textbooks
  • Cigarette smoke soaked books 

How it works: 

DROP OFF (Up to 100 books at a time ):  1102 W. 18th St (map)
HOURS: every day 11am-6pm
FREE PICK-UP:  Schedule online 
WEBSITE: www.pilsencommunitybooks.org

3. Open Books

Through the sales of donated books online and at their two brick-and-mortar locations, Open Books funds community literacy programs. Their roving literacy workshops have reached tens of thousands of readers in under-resourced neighborhoods throughout Chicagoland.  

The book department also produces zero waste, finding a home for every book through resale, donation, or recycling as a last resort. 

Donate these:  

  • Sellable books in good condition
  • LPs, CDs, and DVDs (no VHS tapes) 

Not these:

  • Encyclopedias
  • Dictionaries
  • Thesauruses
  • Sets of law books 
  • Magazines/journals
  • Pre-college (K-12) textbooks

How it works:

DROP OFF:  Open Books has drop boxes at their West Loop and Pilsen stores, and at several other locations around the city. Donations of more than five boxes need to be dropped off at the Pilsen store. 

West Loop
645 W Couch Pl. (map) - Drop box off at Desplaines between Randolph and Lake St., behind  the West Loop store

905 W. 19th St. Chicago, IL 60608 (map) - Drop slot in front of the building. 

River North
802 W. Superior Chicago, IL 60642 (map)Drop box at corner of Halsted + Superior

5979 Butterfield Rd. Hillside, IL 60162 (map) Drop box

2727 Shermer Rd. Northbrook, IL 60062  (map) - Drop box

DONATION RECEIPT: In store and online
WEBSITE: open-books.org 

What about books in poor condition?

Sometimes, books are beyond donating. If they're too waterlogged, faded, or torn apart to read, books can be upcycled into some pretty clever things, or they can be recycled. 

In Chicago, paperback books can be recycled straight in the blue cart. For hardback books, the covers need to be removed before the pages can be recycled.  

Wondering what else can be recycled in your Blue Cart?  View the guide.

Association of American Publishers 



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City of Chicago

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