The Book Barn

The Book Barn

In our small town, residents have the option of contracting with a curb-side trash service for pickup or taking trash, recycling, and the like, to the Town “Transfer and Recycling Station.”

The Transfer and Recycling Station is what most people might think of as the classic landfill or “dump.” That’s what it would’ve been called in the old days. Our Town “dump”  is anything but.

For one thing, it’s beautiful to look at—and also quite the social scene! You see all your friends and neighbors there, and it’s a place to catch up on local news!

Plus 75% of everything brought into the Transfer and Recycling Station is recycled or reused. Yard waste is composted in giant piles and bins (residents can help themselves to compost, and they can also take a home composting class), discarded lumber is brought in and then is often taken out by others who will reuse it, and the “free wall” offers household items that one family no longer needs and anyone is free to take. Of course there are also recycling bins and a Goodwill drop off box. 

But my personal favorite is the Book Barn.
The Book Barn is a small brown shed where residents can drop off and pick up books, free of charge! A few years ago when I tried my hand at used-book selling on Amazon, I found many books in the barn that I eventually resold. It’s a wonderful place that children (and adults) can take as many books as they can carry. I love the way it encourages reading in kids (and adults, too), but I also love that it gives books another chance to be read!

And this seems especially important now, as Borders closes its doors and we have only a couple of small bookstores anywhere nearby.

Last Saturday when we took our trash and recycling to the Transfer Station, I took some photos of the Book Barn. And I also had an opportunity to talk to Phil, the superintendent of the whole operation. Phil was quick to apologize for the state of the Book Barn, which—as you can see from the photos—was packed to the brim. He explained that a local book sale had just dropped off leftovers.

How the Book Barn looked on Saturday

(Understand, I had no problem with how the Book Barn looked; I was simply amazed there were so many books to choose from!)
“In a few days we’ll clean it out,” Phil said. “We do this four times a year. But nothing goes to waste.”

Phil explained all paperback books and magazines could be recycled; all hardcover books went into the trash (vinyl covers and press board can’t be recycled—Phil said a lot of obsolete encyclopedias end up here). All trash (the 25% of the Transfer Station’s refuse that is not recycled) is sent to a company that burns the trash and creates electricity.

How it usually looks
The day we went in, MEH (My Engineer Husband) brought home an Aristotle book on politics and I brought home How to Write the Modern Mystery. We had a huge variety of other books to choose from, and I could have taken many more. I never worry about not liking a book or what to do with it when I’m done because I can always re-donate it to the Book Barn!

I didn’t spend much time looking on our Saturday visit, but often there are very recent releases—one woman I know takes joy in leaving new books she’s just finished reading, just knowing that someone else will enjoy reading them, too!

Just as my friend considers her book donations as a gift to an anonymous receiver, I see the Book Barn as a gift from the Town to ourselves.

Is there a place where you live that you can donate and receive free books? 



  1. Ann says:

    Okay – that is the COOLEST dump I’ve ever seen! I love it! I’m a fan of used books – and while we don’t have a place for free books…there are a LOT of used bookstores here….with a HUGE one about 15 miles away.

    When I’m finished with books, I give them to my sister who puts the hardbacks and new paperbacks in the stacks or sells the ones she can’t use for program materials.

    She’s the librarian for her small town…

  2. Barbarann says:

    My current place for cheap books is the sellout at Borders, sad but the way of marketing these days makes it hard for the book market. However, my local Borders stocked very little in the way of conservative material and authors, and pushed other subjects that were their preference, not mine. Just by listening in the store for the past several years, what was continuous ca ching ca ching ca ching became long periods of dead silence. Their sales methodology worked here just fine until there was competition right next door called Barnes and Noble who stocked their shelves with what was new, what was old and what was unfettered by the Borders form of censorship. Want customers? Give them what they want. For me books are like candy, favorite flavors irresistible. I never entered a book store anywhere on earth to come out with only the book I went in for. Love my ipad/kindle, but the texture of a book, holding it, carrying it around, cannot be duplicated by an electronic marvel. I now read differently, on the fly, because I can, instead of parking in a chair for the day to read a novel until the very end. Pros and cons, no? Next best thing is a used book. Fab idea.

  3. Cynthia Robertson says:

    I like your new header, Julia!!
    That recycling station sounds utopian. It’s great when people do sensible, earth friendly stuff like this. And the Book Barn is a little piece of heaven.
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Nancy Kelley says:

    Your Book Barn would be my favorite place in the world, if I’d ever been there. A shed loaded with used books that I can pore over, and then take as many as I want, no charge? Someplace I can donate my used books so others can enjoy them as much as I have? Paradise. It’s almost like… what’s that place called? Oh yeah! A library!

    Amazing, Julia. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Ann, It’s a pretty cool place, I must concur (but if you visit, do NOT call it a dump; they don’t like that! 🙂 You’re lucky to have good used bookstores in your area, and it sounds like your sister is lucky to have you!

    Barbarann, You’re lucky to have a Barnes & Noble; once our Borders is gone we’ll have just two very small bookstores! Interesting how your reading habits have changed now that they can…. sounds like a great fit for you to be able to read wherever you want to. Glad you enjoye the Book Barn!

    Cynthia, glad you like the new header! Thank you! I have to admit the Town Transfer station is pretty darn cool. The fact that they’re doing innovative things is fabulous and the Book Barn just makes it even better for people like me who can’t get enough books!

    Nancy, I’m sure you would love the book barn — it’s great for exactly the reasons you stated. What’s amazing is there are people in town I’ve met that have either never heard of it and/or have never been inside. Can you believe it? (Yes, the library is amazing, too; which makes it hard to believe there’s any funding issues with them, right?)

  6. I wish we had a Book Barn! I love sharing books with others, so whenever I finish reading a book that I enjoyed, but that I know I probably won’t reread, I donate it to the local library. I figure I can always check it out again if I want to, and this way others get to read it as well.

    Love the header, by the way!

  7. Susan says:

    How neat is that! I could definitely spend an afternoon there. Your town is very progressive. Good for them! I also love your new header, and the large type is a bonus for those of us whose old eyes don’t see as well as they used to.

  8. Natalia, I wish all cities/towns had book barns… I was so pleasantly surprised when I first found out about ours! That’s a great idea about the library, too, but ours doesn’t take donations for their collections, only for their yearly book sale — and they can’t store books year round. That’s why I’m especially glad for the book barn. (p.s. thanks for the compliment on the header!)

  9. Susan, You and I both could spend an afternoon there — so many buried treasures! Thanks for the compliment on the new header; and glad to give you a break in the eyes department, me too! 🙂

  10. Oh WOW. I want a Book Barn in my little town. I love that your community embraces recycling to the degree it does … and what a complete GOLD MINE to have at your disposal. But even better – the books can be saved! My mom just asked me the other day what to do with all our children’s books. She said she can’t find anyplace to take them (in PA), and then she said something that made my blood run cold: “Well, someday books like these – you know, paper, ink – might not exist since everything is going electronic. Maybe I should keep them. They could be worth something some day.” I told her, “They’re ALL worth something!” And, I urged her to keep them (or find a nice place like yours)!

    I could get lost in that little book barn, though. And how wonderful that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is being put to use with the “Free wall” and the free compost. Wow. Love it.

  11. Okay, can you explain to me why anyone would opt for the option to bring their own trash the town dump, rather than having a garbage truck come and pick it up? I’m not being facetious, I honestly want to know. Why would you lug all your smelly bags in your car when you can keep it nice and clean by relying on the garbage truck instead?

    As you know, I recently spent almost two weeks in Cape Cod, and this is exactly what they do there as well. My mother-in-law was raving to us that we have to see “The Dump.” And she described it very similarly to what your pictures show. I understand the idea of a place to bring books or clothing… but trash?? Perhaps I’m stuck in the rut of city (and/or suburbia) life, but I don’t want to hand-deliver my own. Anyhow, we never ended up going to it—despite her enthusiastic descriptions. Your post helps me with a new visual though. We might have missed out on something very cool…

    I have several places to buy and donate books: three thrift stores are nearby, and plus, my library takes donations all year round for their book sales, which I always shop at. 😀

  12. Melissa, The Book Barn is very cool; and Phil is about the most enthusiastic recycler/trash reuser of anyone I’ve ever talked to! It’s so nice to know that I can take children’s books to the Book Barn, and they are one of the types most sought after there, it’s great! (As for your mom’s books, I know there are literacy programs near here that take donations, maybe she could find one near her?) When you visit Maine, we’ll take a trip to the Book Barn!

    Barb, I love your question, and it’s the same one I thought of myself when we moved here…. and I think the answer is in the money saved. If you contract with a company, you can pay up to about $30/month for trash hauling; taking your own trash to the dump (which we do about once a month) costs us nothing. So, we end up saving over $300 a year. That’s hilarious about your MIL wanting to take you to their dump — this must be a New England thing. As a western transplant, it’s all new (and exciting) to me! Glad you saw pics of what you might have missed at Cape Cod!

  13. Ah, I see. I would consider the $300 a year for trash pickup money well-spent. Btw, where are you originally from?

  14. Barb, yes the money is huge. Where am I originally from… what a question, here’s why: started in France, moved to Pennsylvania, then to Massachusetts, then to California (with brief stops in NY and Ohio and longer stops in Belize), then Kenya and Uganda, back to California, then (after married) to Colorado and finally to Maine…. more than you EVER wanted OR NEEDED to know about me 😀 (but thanks for asking!)

  15. Erika Marks says:

    Oh, I wish! I don’t know if the Book Barn was there when I was growing up–what a fabulous place. And you are so right that this is the best for people to get access to books and the ultimate recycling! Yay Maine! Yay Phil!

  16. Erika, It is a fabulous place–and Phil is remarkably enthusiastic and gung ho about all kinds of innovations. I feel fortunate to live in a town that emphasizes the spirit of reuse! It embodies the thrifty New England way, and at the same time reflects the needs of our times!

  17. Kim Samsin says:

    I love the transfer station idea! There’s nothing free around here, but Ottawa has lots of used places that are on the high end of reasonable (and a few antiquarian places with rare books too). There are also a lot of fundraisers where people donate their books and then the donated books are sold in school gyms, churches, and things like that.

    I’m also warmed by the civic-mindedness of the whole plan. For something like that to go into place here–even in a smaller village–there would be committees and complaints and taxation and letters to the editor, based on what seems to happen when people have a good idea. And the idea would die before it left the ground.

  18. Kim, Believe me, there are plenty of politics here too, in many town actitivites! But the transfer station is long-established and (although there is a recycling board) the management obviously is superlative!

  19. That is beyond awesome! I want a book barn in my backyard! I’ve never heard of something like that. Honestly could use it right now…after the move we realized that as much as I love my books…they are taking over the house! Another argument for the kindle!!

  20. Leah says:

    OMG, my husband and I would go CRAZY in the Book Barn! We’re such suckers for used bookstores. We love going to Goodwill Books and going through all the books for sale. And I always donate our books there too. Feels good and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen many of them on the shelves.

  21. Stephanie, I know exactly what you mean about books taking over the house…. same! I need to donate some books myself; but it’s so hard for me to part with them. The Book Barn tempts me to bring home even more!!

    Leah, I love donating books too (when I can part with them)! I should start a tour business, taking people to the Book Barn when they visit Maine. LOL, it will be a book lover’s highlight!

  22. We have a place like this in Baltimore, but I can’t think of the name of it. I’m a book hoarder so I usually end up keeping most of my books instead of donating them. So I’ve never been to the book exchange. I love the idea of it though!

  23. Jen, Book hoarder here, too! I have many books from my childhood that I simply can’t part with….it’s a quandry for me because we live in such a humid place that they often get mildewed then I feel guilty that they’ll need to be thrown out instead of ever read again…. how do you protect your books?

  24. I love the Book Barn concept! I live in a “readerly” area, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a similar place here.

  25. Ado says:

    That does it. This one put me over the edge: we’re moving to Maine so we can be near your book barn. Man that’s civilized.

  26. Mahesh, I wouldn’t be surprised if this concept is used in other parts of the country! I’d love to hear about it if you find out!

    Ado, The Book Barn is great — and when you get ready to move up here, I’ll give you the grand tour! 🙂

  27. Lisa Ahn says:

    Oh, I sooooo want to move to your town!

  28. Lisa, It has it’s good sides and it’s bad sides…. LOL! But we can always use wonderful writer residents, so you would be most welcome!! I would love you as a neighbor!