Best Places to Donate Used Books in New York City

Give your gently used books a second life by donating them to these worthy organizations.

Updated June 27, 2023
woman holding books in her hands

Bibliophiles know just how giddy walking up and down the shelves of a used bookstore can be, and you can spread that literary joy too! Donating your books to used book stores, non-profits, and local classrooms is just one way to keep the love of reading alive.

But in a city as big as New York, knowing where to start can be the hardest part. Thankfully, there are a ton of places to donate books in NYC.

Where Can I Donate Used Books in New York City?

Throughout New York City and the surrounding region, there are numerous places you can donate books. Instead of tossing your old copies of required reading books or childhood favorites that you've outgrown, think about donating them to any one of these awesome organizations.

Books Through Bars

Books aren't just a way to pass the time. They can really bring people comfort and help them learn to navigate new situations. Consider helping provide support and encouragement to incarcerated individuals by donating to Books Through Bars. This organization accepts most types of books and gives them to prisoners who are seeking reading material.

They're specifically looking for history books focusing on African American, Latin and Native American cultures, social science books, learning world languages and other how-to books. Paperback books are the only acceptable kind since most prisons don't accept hardcovers.

If you want to donate, contact them through email and get approval before dropping your books off at their Red Hook location. Check out their website for more information about the specific categories and requirements for donating through them.

Fast Fact

Dictionaries and thesauruses may feel like a thing of the past because of Google, but incarcerated individuals rely on these tools to navigate their multi-lingual environments. According to Books Through Bars, their most request items are "English dictionaries, Spanish/English dictionaries, and thesauruses."

Reading Reflections

Started by two young brothers, Reading Reflections is an organization that provides books to children who are in desperate need. In some cases, the books remain local while in others the books make their way around the world.

Reading Reflections accepts children's books appropriate for kids of all ages. They also accept math and science textbooks, puzzles, and other child-appropriate games. Although they're children-focused, they do accept adult book donations since they provide services to adults through the program as well.

Currently Reading Reflections is at 3.65 million of their 5 million donated books goal. To donate your old books, visit the Reading Reflections website and fill out the donation form. They'll get into contact with you about where you can drop your donations off, whether you're in New York City or Long Island. And if you represent a corporation, publisher, or bookseller, you can donate this way as well.

Reach Out & Read

If you're looking for a place to donate gently used children's books, then the Reach Out & Read program is a great option to consider. The program centers on connecting with participating pediatrician's offices to educate parents about how reading to children can make a positive impact their growth during well-visit checkups.

At these visits, new books are given to kids between six months and five years. Donated books are given to siblings who come along or left in their waiting areas for patients to use.

Fill out a book donation form on their website for any of the books you want to donate. Keep in mind that your books need to be new or gently used. In addition to your books, you can also make a monetary donation to further support their mission.

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

The Housing Works Bookstore Cafe inventory is full of donated books and other media (CDs, DVDs and vinyl). The store welcomes donations of gently used books in good condition. Not only do they take fiction and nonfiction reading material, they also take textbooks that are less than a year old.

All of the bookstore's profits go to support the Housing Works' work towards helping those who have HIV/AIDS and are in need of assistance with health care, housing, legal assistance, job training and more.

To donate to the Bookstore Cafe, take your books and media to the store (located at 126 Crosby Street). Donations are typically accepted from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. during the week and 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Note that the store sometimes closes for special events, so you should call ahead of time just to be safe.

Fast Fact

If you're one of the millions of Taylor Swift fans, then you might want to make Housing Works Bookstore a must-stop next time you're in NYC. The bookstore's interior served as the filming location for the end scene in her short film, All Too Well: The Short Film.

Brooklyn Book Bodega

The Brooklyn Book Bodega is a 501(c) nonprofit that works to decrease the book deserts in Brooklyn as well as increase the number of Brooklyn families with 100+ books. While you can donate monetarily, you can also bring in new or gently used books for ages 0-18. You can bring your donations to one of their three drop-off locations: Brooklyn Navy Yard, Old Stone House, and Brooklyn Board of Realtors.

If you want to donate more than 50 books, reach out to arrange an appointment. And before donating, organize your books by a sensible category (age, genre, etc.) and label the different donation boxes/bags.

New York City Libraries

New York City libraries will consider taking most types of books and textbooks from you, assuming the items are in good condition and the staff thinks they're appropriate for the circulating collection. However, they have a limited space, so not every appropriate donation's accepted.

Before donating to the library, reach out to your local branch to find out if the books you want to bring in meet their requirements. Be prepared to share the what titles you have and to describe their conditions.

To find out which is your local library branch, visit the New York Public Library website.

NYC Public Library's Correctional Services Program

In addition to accepting donations for library collections, the New York City Public Library also accepts gently used paperback books for its Correctional Services outreach program. This program provides a variety of library-related services, including a mobile book program for five jails in the city. As many as 1,200 people per week check out books through this program.

Not all subject matter is accepted and you'll need to contact the program director by email before making a donation, so be sure to review their list of acceptable topics and other requirements.

Please note that they only want books that are in excellent condition, so that they'll appeal to people participating. After all, you're much more likely to pick up a shiny new cover over a stained copy any day. You can mail in your donations or deliver them to the Midtown location.

Need to Know

Currently, the NYPL's biggest need for their Correctional Services Program is large print fiction and nonfiction books in stellar condition. This will let participants with vision impairments actually get to use their services.

Give Your Books a Second Life

Remember the first time a book really connected with you on a deeper level? Maybe it helped you feel more seen or gave you perspective on a trouble area in your own life. You can give other people the chance to have those experiences by donating your books. Just like NYC has a plethora of programs and organizations where you can donate old books, your area is bound to have some too.

Best Places to Donate Used Books in New York City