One person's pile of dusty books is another person's gateway to higher education.
Lynn Gaubatz, an acclaimed bassoonist and avid reader, knew from personal experience that it's easy to end up with boxes of books that will never be read again.
In 2002, Lynn started researching libraries around the country that could use people's unwanted books. The result was Adopt A Library, an Internet middleman for donors to find libraries most in need.
"People don't want to be inundated with a lot of stuff they can't use," Lynn said. "I realized not only are there a lot of needs at libraries but people who really want to do good, and to know where their help is going."
Some people, she said, donate books in lieu of giving money because they like to know exactly what it is they're doing to help out. Though Lynn maintains the website, she says many of the donations that occur happen without her interference at all.
But sometimes Lynn does step in to help, setting up potential donors with best-match libraries so that both sides win out. She even expanded the program to Adopt A School and Prose For Cons, so that depleted school and prison libraries could benefit from her program.
Though it might seem unusual to send books to prisons, Lynn is passionate about her cause. "If a prisoner hasn't signed up for anything at all there's a certain percentage of recidivism," she said. "I got a whole bunch of books for the juvenile detention center and they were beside themselves. There's no way they have money for entertainment reading."
Lynn makes no profit off the site, and does not accept donations. She runs the site in her spare time out of her dedication to helping both sides of the equation fulfill their goals. And Lynn has tried her best to bring attention to the issue, working with Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb's office to get the day after Earth Day declared "Adopt a Library" Day.
"I chose the day after Earth Day because it saves so many books from landfills," she said. "I wanted it to get some reflected glory."
Lynn, who frequently performs benefit concerts, remembered one particular book-sharing endeavor that stuck out for her.
"I got this email from a guy who was in his upper 80s who didn't feel like he had that much more time on the planet. He'd been a pilot in World War II and had been collecting books on air craft, air forces, air defense," she said. "He was afraid that when he died they'd be donated for a quarter, or given to the Salvation Army."
"It's scary how many usable books go into landfills," she said. So she worked with the man to ensure that his books would find the right home. "The air force academy had the first cut at it and they took all but one, but one was so rare that the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian wanted it."
The man was ecstatic. "He was so glad it went to people who had the same love for it," she said. "This was a legacy he wanted to leave."
For her efforts, Lynn was recently recognized as a L'Oreal Woman of Worth. But for Lynn, any recognition she gets is mainly exciting because of the attention it brings her project.
"Every time it's further out in the American consciousness the amount of good it does goes up exponentially," she said. "The more I talk to both ends of the spectrum the more I get excited about all this."
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