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Pagan Books

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Advice for Donate a Pagan Book Day

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Advice for Donate a Pagan Book Day

Author: Gwendolyn Reece [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: April 1st. 2012
Times Viewed: 2,999

National Donate a Pagan Book Day is coming up on April 9, 2012. As both a Witch and a librarian, I wanted to give people some pointers on the way to make a successful donation to their library.

As a librarian, book donations are a mixed blessing. It is wonderful when we get donations that enhance our collections and save us from needing to buy a book. We are all facing shrinking budgets, after all. It is important to realize, however, that accepting a gift book is not free from the perspective of the library. Accepted books must be cataloged and processed for addition to the collection. Eventually, they will need to be removed from the collection or preserved. Usually the costs associated with processing a book are greater than the actual price of the book. Additionally, most libraries are facing severe space constraints. My library, like most academic collections, pays a large sum to house a good portion of its collection in offsite storage.

The point is that it is important that your donated book matches the collection development needs of the particular library or it will be rejected and that rejection may not be about the fact that it is a Pagan book. I have certainly rejected my share of Pagan gift books because they were not appropriate for an academic collection.

My specific advice is listed below. There can be exceptions to these suggestions. In particular, if you have a rare item, a signed item, or a complete run of a rare periodical, you may want to contact an appropriate special collection/archive (some of the main archives that have relevant collections include UCSB, The Huntington Library, The Graduate Theological Union Library) . On the other hand, if you have something rare of this type that is specific to Pagan traditions, you could also hold onto it for donation to a Pagan-specific special collection, such as the New Alexandrian Library [].

For All Libraries

DO NOT donate the following:
  • Magazines
  • Damaged books
  • Books that have been marked up
  • Books that have even the slightest trace of mold or water damage (they are “infectious” to other books)
  • Books that have acidic paper (if you fold the top corner of a page down and then pull gently on it and it breaks, do not donate it anywhere, the acid is “infectious” to other books)
DO search the catalog for the book you are considering donating. Many libraries, due to space constraints, have a policy of not accepting additional copies of materials they already own. Some have a policy of not accepting gift books at all.

Public Libraries
If a public library has any popular (for a general audience) book on Christianity or another mainline religion, they should be willing to accept a Pagan book, if they are accepting gift books at all. I would advise you to double-check with the library staff about whether they are accepting books prior to letting them know what your donation is. If they say they are not receiving gift books, try a different library. However, if the library is collecting gift books and if your donation is for an item that is not in their collection and is in good physical condition and it is still rejected, ask for the reason and for the contact information of the person rejecting your donation. Please read the “what to do if your Pagan book is rejected” advice further down.

Academic Libraries
Academic collections have a different purpose and scope than public libraries. They typically collect books that study religions rather than literature intended for practitioners. I have rejected quite a number of Pagan books for addition to our library because they were not appropriate for an academic collection. An academic library might also collect some primary source materials, but few Pagan books would qualify. Something like Leland’s Aradia might, but you would need to make a case that you are offering it as a primary source. There are, however, a growing number of books that study Paganism as a religion or are scholarly analyses of Pagan religions in the past. Some authors for consideration include: Nikki Bado, Helen Berger, Chas Clifton, Owen Davis, Carlo Ginzburg, Ronald Hutton, Jone Salomonsen, Emma Wilby, and Michael York. Again, please check to be sure that the book you are considering donating is not already owned.

School Libraries
School libraries are, for the most part, more like academic libraries than like public libraries. Age appropriateness is also a consideration. As a rule of thumb, whether something is age appropriate should not typically be about subject content, but about reading level required. High school libraries should accept materials that would be acceptable in a college or university library. A more appropriate donation to a primary school library might be a book about mythology, a book of fairy tales, or something like Ellen Evert Hopman’s Walking the World in Wonder. Look to see what types of books on mainstream religions are in the school library and similar types should be accepted on Paganism, so long as the reading level is appropriate.

Prison Libraries
Many prison libraries are very happy to receive Pagan books and they provide potentially life-altering experiences to inmates. Before sending a book to a prison library, however, check on the local policies. Many prisons do not accept any hard-cover books and some will only accept books that are sent to the prison directly from a site such as Amazon to ensure that no one else has come in contact with the book before it is sent to the prison. There are reasons for this that arise from the unfortunate tendency of humans to use their ingenuity in negative ways. One site that gathers and maintains this information for some prisons is:

What to do if your Pagan book is rejected
First, be sure that there is not a readily identifiable other reason for rejection, such as the item being in poor condition, already being a part of the collection, being inappropriate for the type of collection, or that the library has a standard policy of not accepting gift books. If none of these reasons explain the rejection, ask for the name of the person who rejected the donation and the reason for the rejection. If they say that it is “inappropriate, ” ask them to define what they mean by inappropriate, paying particular attention to any words that indicate that it is the Pagan content that makes it unacceptable. Try to immediately write down the exact words that are given. Contact the director of the library (or principal of the school, chief administrator of the prison) and be sure to identify the person who rejected the volume and the reason given. Ask the director to reconsider. If a library employee is acting out of alignment with the professional expectations of the organization, the director needs to know. If it is confirmed that the individual’s actions are a reflection of the organization’s policy and it is clear that the reason for the rejection is the subject matter, consider contacting your local chapter of the ACLU. Again, if you are going to contact the ACLU, please document everything with both as much specificity and objectivity as possible and as soon after the event as you can, including when and where you had the discussion and with whom.


Gwendolyn Reece

Location: Washington, Washington DC

Author's Profile: To learn more about Gwendolyn Reece - Click HERE

Bio: Gwendolyn Reece is a Witch, initiated into one of the lineages from Lady Circe of Toledo, a Theosophist, a shamanic practitioner trained by the Gryphon’s Grove School, and professionally she is a tenured faculty member and librarian at American University. Gwendolyn has a Ph.D. in Education from American University, an M.S. in Library and Information Science from Simmons College, and an M.A. and completed all of the doctoral coursework in Religious Studies from University of California at Santa Barbara. She serves as the Director of Research, Teaching and Learning.
She is also an active researcher, currently conducting the Pagan/Witch/Heathen Community Needs Assessment Survey [] and serves on numerous university committees, including American University’s Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects.

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