The next time you buy a used book on Amazon.com, you might be doing more than getting a deal. You might be helping keep your local library branch open. In November, the Clark County Library District started selling select discarded, donated and duplicate books online, and hopes to make about an extra $50,000 a year to put toward library services such as classes and seminars.
"As tax revenues go down, district core services are being curtailed and essentially the (library) district is taking up the slack for essential services," says Danielle Milam, Las Vegas-Clark County Library District and Foundation development director.
Last year, the district made about $190,000 selling books in library used bookstores. The foundation hopes to increase that revenue 25 percent by going online. That money is more than chump change. Among other things, it pays for youth, cultural and literacy programs, as well as the salary of the volunteer program coordinator.
It's a big step for a district that, once had little control over its book sales. An outside contractor sold discarded books online, but the district only received a percentage of sales and the volume wasn't that high. Revenue from the 12 library bookstores also wasn't always clear, Milam says, because accounts kept by the Friends of Southern Nevada Libraries, which ran the bookstores, were never audited. She described this relationship as "a little distressing," which is why the district also took over the bookstores in the last fiscal year.
"We could earn more money and that's why we are getting more savvy," she says.
The district purchased two scanners that tell the online market price of a book based on its condition. One of the biggest finds so far: an 80-pound Leonardo da Vinci coffee-table art book, priced new at a whopping $1,400. The library put it on Amazon for $500.
Don't worry. No public literary treasures are being auctioned off in cyberspace. Milam insists that only duplicates, donations that don't fit into the collection and unpopular books are weeded out to make room for new acquisitions. To book lovers, this means a fresh stock of titles they might not have found otherwise.