The Reading Life: Neal M.O. Walsh, Book Donations

Oct 9, 2020

Susan Larson talks with Neal M.O. Walsh about his new book, 'The Big Door Prize' and explores some of the places used books can be donated, as people are tidying up and organizing their homes.  

[music bed, 'Cleanup Time' by John Lennon] 


Susan Larson: A lot of us have been decluttering our houses during this pandemic stay at homes and many of you have asked me where you can donate books. Like everything else these days, that's a bit complicated. We thought we’d check in with some local organizations to see how they're handling it. The Friends of the New Orleans Public Library headquartered in the Carriage House behind Latter Library on St. Charles Avenue has more stringent policies these days. Dixon Stetler is the executive director of the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library. Dixon, you're open again for donation, so what's the process?

Dixon Stetler: We are quarantining all donated items for 72 hours to keep everyone safe. We accept book donations, records, CDs, DVDs, just about everything, except for we are unable to take textbooks or encyclopedias. We schedule appointments to accept donations in order to quarantine them for the proper amount of time. You can send an email or call a phone number to make an appointment. The phone number is 504-345-9563 or you can send an email and that's

Susan Larson: Great. You all are open for business again, aren't you?

Dixon Stetler: We are open and we have expanded our hours to ensure that there's plenty of time for people to come and social distance so that our sale is now three days a week, rather than two. It's Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 10:00 to 2:00.

Susan Larson: One of the things you have coming up is an open-air book sale, and that's coming up soon. That's really great because at Latter Library, you have all this space for social distancing.

Dixon Stetler: Exactly. The weather has just been so glorious lately. We wanted to do something outside open-air. There's plenty of room to spread out and social distance. We have not eight million books, but it feels like it. This sale won't have our traditional really, really old book sale as part of this open-air book sale. We have hundreds of antiquated books and out of print signed, first edition, all that good stuff and we will also have our regular offerings of general fiction, children's books, mystery, thriller books. It's a very large local section. Hopefully, there'll be something for everyone.

Susan Larson: That's coming up October 17th and 18th, so tell us about the hours.

Dixon Stetler: Well, on Saturday, the 17th at 10:00 AM, we will be open for Friends members to get first deal on all the treasures. People can join or renew either online beforehand, or the day of the sale at 10:00 AM. At 11:00 AM on Saturday the 17th we'll be open to the public and we will go until 4:00 PM that day. Then on Sunday, the 18th we'll be open from 10:00 to 2:00.

Susan Larson: You want clients to take some precautions, don't you?

Dixon Stetler: Absolutely, masks will be required and admission may be limited to ensure social distancing.

Susan Larson: People can be assured that all the items in the book sale have been quarantined for at least 14 days.

Dixon Stetler: Correct.

Susan Larson: You're doing your best. [laughs]

Dixon Stetler: Correct. We will have sanitizing stations then the whole works.

Susan Larson: Now, another great option for donating books are the little free libraries you see as you drive around town and you can find a map of New Orleans' little free libraries at

Dixon Stetler: Yes. Any little free library stewards in Orleans parish that need books to fill their libraries, we're happy to give them a box or two of free books.

Susan Larson: Oh, that's so generous. How are the book donations coming in? Are you getting a lot as people clean out their houses?

Dixon Stetler: We are getting a tremendous amount of donations these days. I think almost everybody in town cleans their house at some point during the past six months that they're stuck at home, and so we're seeing the fruits of that labor. We're overrun with donations in the best possible way.

Susan Larson: Well, keep up the great work. We should say that there are rain dates for the book sale as well, so if it gets rained out on the 17th and 18th, you can come the next weekend, the 24th and the 25th. Check out for more information or to join ahead of time.

[music bed, 'When you Wish upon a Star', performed by Phil DeGruy]

Susan Larson: Peg Phelps works hard every year on the Friends of the Jefferson Public Library big book sale, but things are a little different this year, so what are you all doing, Peg?

Peg Phelps: Well, we are working sorting books and pricing books and packing books and hoping and praying that we will be able to have a sale sometimes maybe next spring.

Susan Larson: How can people donate to the book sale?

Peg Phelps: We are accepting books by donation only so that we can quarantine them properly. Either call 504-455-2665 for an appointment or email us at If you have just a few books, we do have our bins open. They are located at the main Jefferson Parish Library at 4747 West Napoleon Avenue.

Susan Larson: Now, to join the Friends and to find out more information, people can go to

[music bed, Emily, by Steve Masakowski]

This year's Symphony Book Fair was canceled and they will be regrouping for 2021, but they're still accepting donations at their warehouse at 8605 Oak Street on Tuesdays and Fridays between 10:00 and 2:00. The process is stricter there now too. Masks are required, and donations of 10 boxes or more require an appointment. To schedule one email, or call the warehouse at (504) 861-2004 and leave your phone number. Volunteers will not be able to assist you unloading your car due to COVID precautions. Donors must come prepared to unload everything and carry it into the warehouse.

Also, Louisiana Books 2 Prisoners is not accepting books or holding work nights at this time. As a general rule, textbooks or encyclopedias are not accepted. Please make sure your books are in reasonable condition and never leave books outside these buildings where they will be at the mercy of our unpredictable weather. If you'd like to try selling your books rather than donating them, check in with one of the many used bookstores in our city, but be sure to call ahead of time.