Uses for Old Encyclopedias

Outdated encyclopedias are not necessarily worthless, get creative and repurpose or craft something using these sturdy books. This guide contains uses for old encyclopedias.

One volume of a Harver World encyclopedia.
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My mom has a complete set of World Book large print dated in the 50s. What can she do with them?

By Jennifer

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It is sad but there is almost no place to dispose of these sets but you can check out eBay, Google sites, and maybe Craigslist. It is sometimes very difficult to even give them away - library sales will not usually accept sets. But, try Free-cycle in your city to see if anyone would like to have them.

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Since old encyclopedia sets are hard to sell and no one has the space for them anymore, individual volumes make great "birthday" or event cards. Give the volume that is the initial of the person and say something pithy on the inside. As a joke I gave the S volume to a friend we dubbed the snake oil salesman - tabbing the Snake article of course!

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    Most of the time old sets of encyclopedias are worth nothing. If the sets are very old there might be some artistic quality in the old pictures that are in them. For instance pictures of cities in the 1800's or even more recently. These pictures could be cut out, enlarged and put in frames. Especially pictures of places that have changed or no longer exist. I am not sure about copyrights pertaining to them but if they are for your own use or for children's projects and not for selling it probably would be fine.

    By Lilac from Springfield, MA

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    We have several sets of old encyclopedias and we want to donate them. Who can we contact?

    By Pat

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    You might ask any missionary organization you know. We caught an encyclopedia set on FreeCycle last year, and contacted our church. They were more than happy to take them for their Philippine faith-based school.

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    I would like to sell a set of 1985 Collier encyclopedias or find a good home for them. Any suggestions?

    By Marge from central NJ

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    Take them to your local library. Even if that branch doesn't need them they will pass them along to another branch or a charity.

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    Encyclopedias on bookshelf.We have a 30 volume set and wish to find someone who would want it or know what to do with it besides put it in the dumpster. Anyone have any ideas, please.

    By Marilyn

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    Hi, I've been looking for a set of encyclopedias that I used to have as a child and used all the time. Sadly, I cannot remember the name of them. These look similar to them, but I cannot be sure. Can you tell me, does this particular set have summaries of great works of literature at the end of each book?

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    I have a 30 year old set of Encyclopedia Britannica in almost pristine condition. I must downsize and dispose of them. I have called thrift shops, rescue mission, library and no one wants them. I will have to throw them in the trash, any suggestions?

    Susan from Casper, WY


    What Can I Do With Old Encyclopedias?

    Susan, our local newspaper places ads (at no cost) for items if you are going to give them away for free. Maybe if you call your local paper they may have the same offer. How about going onto and seeing if anyone wants them? I would think that the books may have outdated information after 30 years and wouldn't be very useful for research; but, I have seen some really cute lamps made from books stacked up and I think your encyclopedias would be great for that. (02/05/2007)

    By Persnickety Paula

    What Can I Do With Old Encyclopedias?

    Drill holes in them and make them into lamps. Use them as a coffee table, glue them together and put on a base. I've seen the coolest things made with old books and suitcases. Cut a hole in the pages inside, line and make into a box for storing jewelry (if it's a pretty book to leave out). (02/05/2007)

    By michawnpita

    What Can I Do With Old Encyclopedias?

    I have a great idea: Art Projrcts from old encyclopedias.

    These days, people are using old books to make purses. It's quite the thing right now. They are using hardback books to make all kinds of craft projects. Encyclopedias are just the right size for "Book Purses".

    They call these crafts "Altered Books". This used book crafting is quite the rage. Check HGTV for Altered Book crafts.

    Here's a URL about altered books:

    Pictures of someone's Altered Book Purses:

    You can put an ad in Craig's List under either "Free" or "Crafts". Or you can place an ad in your local newspaper or a "Little Nickel" type of free local paper. "FREE" ads are usually free. We had great luck getting rid of some unusual things using both Craig's list and the local Nickel paper. It's great to know that people are getting use out of our unwanted items.

    You may want to list your ad as "Altered Book Crafters: Free Encyclopedias" or "Crafts For Teachers": Make collages and hanging mobiles from free encyclopedias." (The first 2 words are usually in bold)

    One more idea: Scrapbooking stores and paper stores are the places where people go to buy supplies for altered books. You could either call them and ask if they'd like them for their customers or even better yet, just drop by with a case of encyclopedias and ask them if they'd like them.

    Another Idea:

    Schools and art teachers are always looking for material for art projects. Art collage, science project collage, school projects, and teachers bulletin boards, or hanging mobiles. Besides an art or science teacher (middle or high school) maybe a donate them to a school library for kids to cut up for school projects. (Not all kids can afford computers in the home for pictures to do school projects with). You may want to try the schools in the poorer areas, or even Boy's aand Girls Clubs for collage and art projects. It's amazing what a child can do with a pair of scissors and a bit of glue. They could even make hanging mobiles our of the pictures.

    ***If you like you could even donate the glue, wire, cardboard, and some kids scissors you bought at the dollar store to start them on their way.

    Many people are also making their own paper by blending up old paper in a blender. I've seen many wonderful hand made paper made by using just junk mail. Old encyclopedias covered with fabric make great scrapbooks, too.

    Now that you have the info, if you have the time: Why not keep the books and make cool purses and altered books yourself for gifts. (02/05/2007)

    By Cyinda

    What Can I Do With Old Encyclopedias?

    Maybe they're a collector's item. Try used book stores or eBay to see if there's a market for them. Another idea would be to donate them to a school or church that teaches children in developing countries. (02/06/2007)

    By Jante

    What Can I Do With Old Encyclopedias?

    You may want to try a local used/rare book store. Also, if you have kids, tearing out the pages with pictures for collages or something might be fun, or local daycare centers might take them for that purpose also. Jails even.

    In addition, if you just don't have room for them, and can't find anyone to give them to, you could tear pages out and crumble them for packing breakables, keep several to put under the legs of your bed to make it higher, fill in spots in the attic that need a bit more insulation. I know all these things would be destroying the books, but if your left with only recycling them at the dump, maybe you or a daycare or something could get some non-traditional use from them. Good luck. (02/07/2007)

    By Michele

    What Can I Do With Old Encyclopedias?

    Give them to Goodwill, or Salvation Army. A lot of people love to decorate with old books to fill in shelves, and look at thrift stores for these items. I know I do. (02/07/2007)

    By Jennifer

    What Can I Do With Old Encyclopedias?

    When I worked at our library people would donate them and we would put them on the "cheap for sale" shelf. I would even have people call looking for them from various places that had bookshelves, large, built in ones, etc. that would look for books and sets of books to fill the shelves "for looks", I guess you could say. I can not believe your local library would turn them down, as someone would buy them from the used books collection and the library could benefit. Maybe you could call them again, perhaps you didn't speak to the right person at the library.

    Also, I have seen the lamps, they are really nice for the right environment, if you could find someone to make them or you could make them. I am going to look into the purses to make one from my Stephen King books, which are the only hardbacks I have kept. (02/07/2007)

    What Can I Do With Old Encyclopedias?

    Many times decorators raise the height of a lamp or object by sitting it on a few books.

    Use in craft projects. (02/07/2007)

    By Syd

    What Can I Do With Old Encyclopedias?

    Are there little ones sitting at your table? Glue several encyclopedias together, glue some padding on the top, and cover the whole thing with upholstery scraps (gotten for free from your local car upholstery shop). They won't tip over, and you can make them the height you need. (02/07/2007)

    By Coreen

    What Can I Do With Old Encyclopedias?

    If you can cut a large hole, you can hide things of value, such as jewelry, etc. Then they can go on a bookshelf to look like a normal book. (02/14/2007)

    By Leann

    What Can I Do With Old Encyclopedias?

    May I suggest that you contact Dealers in Old Books/Out of Prints and ask whether they would be interested in buying? Labeling a book as something no-one wanted, is terrible, but calling it an "Out of Print" is really classy. Do treat books with respect and love for all the happy hours they gave you.
    Good luck to you and your "Out of Print books". (04/17/2007)

    By gurth

    What Can I Do With Old Encyclopedias?

    I just donated a 30 year old set in like new condition to a woman's prison which is part of a literacy program. Prisons do not allow access to the web or computers for these programs, but are looking for books and encyclopedias and dictionaries to help with the literacy programs. Contact your local prison. They can use them. (08/24/2008)

    By L. Mont, Miami

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    Better Living Green Living ReusingMarch 22, 2012
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