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    The Joys of Spring Cleaning and Sharing Knowledge

    Ronald G. Wheeland, M.D. To my own surprise, I recently had the sudden and totally involuntarily urge to begin the once-a-decade odious task of “spring cleaning” my professional materials. Over my career, I’ve evaluated the organizational habits of my colleagues when it comes to storing scientific reprints or copies of articles and I have been able to place my colleagues into one of two categories—those who use files and those who use piles.

    Speaking for myself, I’m a piler. It’s a great technique so long as no one ever touches my desk. While, I’ll admit things do get misplaced on occasion, weeding through mounds of out-of-date scientific paper materials can be immensely rewarding. It also gave me enormous pleasure to once again see several square inches of the surface of my desk. I’ll admit it had been so long since the surface was visible that I had forgotten what color it was!

    After dealing with the paper accumulation on my desk, I shifted my focus to the bookshelf. My office contains several large, floor-to-ceiling bookcases which are crammed with hundreds of professional books. Over the years, I’ve gradually removed most of my undergraduate and medical school books (except for a select few in which sentimentality precludes me from being able to throw them out).

    I’m left with the daunting task of trying to decide which of my dermatology texts have lost their relevance and should be removed from my library. Some of these books include chapters that I’ve written, which gives them a personal connection and makes it harder to throw them out. This organizational quandary led me to the idea of perhaps giving those books that are no longer current to someone else who might find them useful.

    I began by contacting the local medical school library only to learn that they have all “the recently old books” they need and weren’t particularly interested in mine. Same response from the local medical society library and from the public library. Even medical students weren’t interested since they read everything electronically. These failures then lead me to where I should have started in the first place—the internet, which is where I struck gold!

    Next: Spring cleaning tips

    Here is a summary of what I learned in case you find yourself in a similar situation:

    First, there are a number of U.S.-based non-profit organizations to consider for the donation of books and journals. Keep in mind, however, there are some general guidelines that must be followed. Journals are only accepted if they are in complete bound sets, no single issues can be donated. Books must generally be no more than 8 years old (some groups require them to be no older than 5 years and one only accepts new books) and no more than one edition old. It is best to contact the organization before shipping any materials to ensure they can make use of your donated materials. Shipping to the organization location is typically at the expense of the donor but they pay to combine books and journals into large crates for shipment to the final location. Here are the groups I have identified, but if there are others you are aware of, please list them in the comments section below.


    The Asia Foundation Books for Asia - Contact: Kathey Tinsley, Program Associate, 85 Charter Oak, San Francisco, CA 94127; phone: 415-656-8990; email: [email protected]

    Bridge to Asia Foundation - Contact: Dr. Jeffrey A. Smith, President, 665 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94108-2430; phone: 415-678-2990; email: [email protected]

    Armenian Medical Association - Contact: Dr. Mike Candan, Adj. Asst. Prof., New York University; phone: 718-271-0170; email: [email protected]

    Books for Africa – Contact: Patrick Plonski, Executive Director, 253 E. 4th Street, Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55101; phone: 651-602-9844; email: [email protected]

    American Assistance for Cambodia -  Contact: Gale Cogan, P.O. Box 782, 88 Parkhurst Drive, Westford, MA 01886; phone: 978-692-5433; email: [email protected]

    Medical Books for China International – Contact: Mary Phillips, 13021 E. Florence Ave., Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670-4505; phone: 800-554-2245; email: [email protected]

    Egyptian Students Association in North America – Contact: Mohamed Elfeky, Book Campaign Manager, P.O. Box 5036, Lafayette, IN 47903; email – [email protected]

    Peruvian American Medical Society – Contact: Ana Salgado, Administrator, 6488 Tamerlane Dr., West Bloomfield, MI 48322; phone: 248-851-2044; email: [email protected]

    Sudan-American Foundation for Education, Inc. – Contact: Dr. Lee Burchinal, Executive Director, 3122 Ross Road, Ames, IA 50014; email: www.sudan-safe.org


    International Organizations:

    United States Book Exchange – Contact: John Zubal, President, 2969 W. 25th Street, Cleveland, OH 44113; phone: 216-241-6966; email: [email protected]. Ships books to: Ecuador, Peru, Philippines, Haiti, Pakistan, Vietnam, South Korea, Tanzania, Uganda, and Belarus.

    International Book Project – Contact: Ken DeGilio, Executive Director, 1440 Delaware Avenue, Lexington, KY 40505; phone: 859-254-6771; email: [email protected]

    Sabre Foundation – Contact: Tania Vitvitsky, Director, 872 Massachusetts Ave., Suite 2-1, Cambridge, MA 02139; phone: 617-868-3510; email: [email protected] Ships books to Eastern Europe.

    International Book Bank – Contact: Bridgette McDonnell, Administrator, P.O. Box 1662, 4000 Buena Vista Ave., Baltimore, MD 21211; phone 410-685-2665; email: [email protected]ank.org


    I took advantage of several of these organizations to make book donations, but was somewhat disappointed that I had held onto some of my books too long to make them acceptable to most of these groups. However, I enjoyed the feeling I got from helping others, even in my own small way, and would certainly recommend making a book donation. The only problem now is what to do with all these wooden plaques I’ve received over the years. Any suggestions?

    More from Dermatology Times:

    If I ruled the (dermatology) world

    My proposed plan for diversity in dermatology

    Progress for Women in Medicine Slow, but Significant

    Ronald G. Wheeland, M.D.
    Ronald G. Wheeland, M.D., is a private practitioner in Tucson, Ariz. He is former president of the American Academy of Dermatology, the ...


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