An interesting post this week on the NASMM listserv asks, “I have a client who wants to get rid of three sets of encyclopedias from the 1960s and 70s. The city recycling center won’t take them, and I don’t want to see them go to the landfill. Any good suggestions?” As I followed this listserv thread over the next few days, I took more than a professional interest in it.
Answers poured in from helpful senior move managers all over the country. One said, “Unfortunately, hard back books are not good for recycling. There is too much clay content in the paper. Recyclers will accept paperback books, but not hard-backed books; those are garbage.”
Another NASMM member noted, “Third world countries. Perhaps your local libraries or estate sale services have a connection of someone passionate about getting the encyclopedias and other books to this population.”
Still another weighed-in with “I substitute teach in a youth detention facility school and even they don’t want encyclopedias from the 70s – or 80s and 90s, for that matter… believe me, I’ve tried. I have never found anyone willing to accept them.”
As each message posted, I couldn’t help but think back to my own youth of the 1960s and early 70s. The double rows of glistening white and green World Book encyclopedias would proudly stand at attention on the walnut bookshelves of our modest family home. With those volumes nearby, we felt like we had the world at our fingertips! Little did we know then . . . the internet and digital revolution would transform our quest for information just a generation later. Each year, my parents would add the latest “annual volume” to keep the set current. 1968, 1969, 1970 . . . My siblings and I would spend hours flipping through the golden-tinged pages. And we would go back to them again and again. What are the chief exports of Spain? Did Kentucky side with the North or South during the Civil War? What year was John F. Kennedy born? The World Book Encyclopedia was our window to the world.
My 80-something parents downsized over a decade ago, from our two-story family home of 45 years in the city to a suburban ranch near children and grandchildren. The World Books didn’t make the move with them. Ten years ago, the local library eagerly scooped up the complete set. Where do you think the World Books are now, those faithful friends of my childhood and adolescence?
Senior move managers of the future likely will not encounter this dilemma as they downsize Boomers. Instead, will these SMMs wonder what to do with all of our flat screen TVs and iPads?