• Collegian staff

Winter Children’s Book Drive returns to help local elementary schools

Melissa Baskin

Staff Writer


Mark O. Hatfield library, named after former Oregon governor and Willamette alum Mark Hatfield, located in Jackson Plaza. Photo by Anushka Srivastav.

The Mark O. Hatfield Library has announced its 17th annual Winter Children’s Book Drive. Formerly called the “Tree of Giving” and lasting only until Thanksgiving, this revamped event will now continue running until the beginning of second semester. This year, Willamette has selected Weddle Elementary School to be the beneficiary of this year’s book drive, who are looking to receive books on diversity, as well as ones in other languages.


When asked for a basic overview of the book drive, John Repplinger, the event’s coordinator, stated, “we take one elementary school out of the Salem-Keizer school district and we contact that school and...say, ‘what books can we give you that you really need?’” The coordinators then do their best to supply those bookish needs via donations. He further explained that part of the project's goal is to help bring new books to schools in low income areas that primarily use outdated books. “A lot of the time the Title 1 schools that really need these donations have really old books,” he said. “You walk in the library and you’re like, ‘are you kidding? This book is probably from 1990.” But in general, they take “old books, new books”-really anything.


According to Repplinger, the reason why the event is now lasting longer is because previously, it had been difficult to get people involved due to the end-of-semester finals crunch. This crunch tends to affect not only students, but also staff, both of whom they call upon for help. “We thought, what would happen if we just extended it...so that way...people might come back at the end of the semester and be like, ‘oh yeah, I remember that there’s this book drive, maybe I can make some extra cash over the holidays.’ Or maybe they have some books to donate, and they can drop those off [instead],” he said. Reppinger also cited difficulties in getting donations out to schools before they closed for the holidays as another deciding factor. The name change was simply to reflect the fact that the project has now been extended through the winter.

Each year this book drive brings in approximately 350-500 books—apparently, “boxes and boxes of them,” as stated by Repplinger—since its initiation in 2006. Though most of their donations are, in fact, books, they do usually get a handful of people donating clothing items such as hats, gloves, socks and more. There is not currently a system in place to collect monetary donations, but the event’s coordinator hopes to enact one soon, noting that any monetary donation system will not be Willamette University affiliated. “It’s kind of an, ‘if it happens, it happens,’ thing,” he stated.


Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, this book drive was not able to happen last year as there was no way to be safe with donations. “There was no way to drop off books unless people walked up...so we decided...let’s just take some time off,” he stated. 2019 was the last year that they were able to operate at all, so they are happy to be up and running again this year. Donations can be dropped off at the Hatfield Library, the Law Library or the Willamette Bookstore.



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