Woman Saves Over 300,000 Books, Now Plans To Burn Them

Woman Saves Over 300,000 Books, Now Plans To Burn Them

Shauna Raycraft's house in Saskatchewan, Canada, looks like the setting for Smokey the Bear's least-favorite episode of Hoarders. Seven years ago, her bibliophile neighbor died and the man's wife said she was going to burn his collection of more than 300,000 books. So Raycraft stepped in and saved them—moving 7,000 boxes of books, buying a small house to store them in, sorting through more than 100,000, and giving thousands to literacy programs and charities.

Now, Raycraft says that if she doesn't receive enough help to sort through the remaining 30 tons of books by July 6, she is going to call the fire department and hold a book burning of her own, complete with band and pig roast. She has been quoted as saying, "I like looking at the years of books. I like looking at which school the books came from, or seeing the little shopping lists and notes that fall out of them." And to that I say, "How about you spend less time shaking the shopping lists out of them and gawking at their markings and more time sorting?" I mean it. Let's see some hustle here.

Look, I know it's cold in Canada, but the fact that not one but two people's solution for this collection was to hold a book burning is just bizarre and offensive. There are countless ways to re-home books, and none of them take seven years. Ms. Raycraft, if you happen upon this before striking your match, consider these things:

  • Let collectors come sift through them. On your Facebook group, you turned someone down who offered to bring collectors by, saying they "tend to be pushy." Beggars can't be choosers.
  • Another woman on your Facebook group asked if you wanted people to grab books to clear them out. You responded with "I perfer [sic] there to be no 'Grabbing' lol. With too many people it becomes meyham. [sic] I am willing to give volunteers books but my primary objective is to donate to readers in need!" Let people take them. If you're planning a book burning, the time for noble intentions has passed.
  • Post that you have free books on Craigslist then leave the book storage area unlocked.
  • Donate to libraries, schools, or thrift stores. Look for those big donation drop boxes.
  • Take a box at a time to used book stores. They won't want everything, but they will take some.
  • Commenters on the CBC story about your situation offered to take boxes of unsorted books.
  • Another commenter from a nonprofit literacy organization offered to help. There are plenty of options along those lines.
  • Have a massive yard sale.
  • eBay unsorted boxes.
  • If worst comes to absolute worst (which it should not), recycle them, but for the love of all things decent, don't burn them.

Book-loving LitReactor friends, any advice for her? I think she's probably well-intentioned but going about things in the wrong way.

Photo via Gord Waldner, The StarPhoenix

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Kimberly Turner

News by Kimberly Turner

Kimberly Turner is an internet entrepreneur, DJ, editor, beekeeper, linguist, traveler, and writer. This either makes her exceptionally well-rounded or slightly crazy; it’s hard to say which. She spent a decade as a journalist and magazine editor in Australia and the U.S. and is now working (very, very slowly) on her first novel. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics and lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, two cats, ten fish, and roughly 60,000 bees.

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JEFFREY GRANT BARR from Central OR is reading Nothing but fucking Shakespeare, for the rest of my life June 19, 2012 - 2:33pm

I grew up in Saskatchewan, and this sounds like something they would do.

misskokamon's picture
misskokamon from San Francisco is reading The Moonlit Mind June 19, 2012 - 5:42pm

Sounds selfish to me... she wants to burn them instead of accepting the help people have offered on her FB page? She wants help sorting them, yet she's turning down offers to take the books off her hands. She doesn't seem interested in donating them to charities or selling them to used bookstores. She won't let people sift through the piles of books to take home. Yet she's going to burn them? Really?

Psh. CANADIANS, right? With their Monopoly Money and pleasant demeanor. HAVE THEY NO RESPECT? 


JEFFREY GRANT BARR from Central OR is reading Nothing but fucking Shakespeare, for the rest of my life June 19, 2012 - 3:51pm

Speaking for Canadians everywhere: We are sorry. Excuse us, please.


jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like June 19, 2012 - 4:25pm

It's absurd.  People sell books in blind lots all the time.  Divvy them up into 500-book bundles and let people gamble on them.  600 bundles at, say, $50 each (a mere 10 cents per book) = $30,000.   If she can't get that together, a charity with a few employees or volunteers certainly could.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like June 19, 2012 - 4:27pm

Depending on the types of books they are, $50 might be pushing it, but still...

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig June 19, 2012 - 6:36pm

Seriously, let the collectors come in. Pushy over what? If she's going to burn them, then she should also be willing to give them away to whomever will take them. I understand that she is realizing the monstrosity of a task she took on when she rescued them, but for fuck's sake--actually rescue them. People seem willing to help, she just doesn't want the help she is offering.


adam_bowman's picture
adam_bowman from England is reading Love in the Time of Cholera June 20, 2012 - 3:17am

I don't understand this story, is she just after publicity? The facebook page has people slobbering over her like she's some kind of saint

SammyB's picture
SammyB from Las Vegas is reading currently too many to list June 20, 2012 - 4:13am

This hurts my heart. Ray Bradbury is rolling in his grave, God rest him. Burning books? Horrific! Schools are struggling right now and teachers can't afford books for their class. Let them sort through and find stuff for their class library and the others can be donated to the teachers or other places.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated June 20, 2012 - 4:49am

Open a book store. She'll have the lowest prices for miles and miles. Or kilometers and kilometers since it's Canada. 

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer June 20, 2012 - 6:06am

Before everyone jumps on this woman calling her evil, she bought a house specifically for the books. I wouldn't have done that. Hell, I couldn't have done that. The books shouldn't be burned, but let's not forget the initial sacrifice she made for the books in the first place, which is something a lot of people wouldn't have done.

alisia's picture
alisia from Byron, NY is reading The Goldfinch by: Donna Tartt June 20, 2012 - 8:34am

She went to all that effort to simply give up? I hope she does not burn these books. 

.'s picture
. June 20, 2012 - 11:45am

She could always just read them.

I think she wanted to save them just to burn them herself all along!

marv66's picture
marv66 from Bay Shore, NY is reading A Feast for Crows June 20, 2012 - 1:05pm

I'd sick the mechanical hound on her

Anonme1's picture
Anonme1 June 25, 2012 - 10:38pm

What I find interesting in the article is the lack of facts. Did she say that she didn't buy the books? Did she indicate that her spouse and his family did the work until the separation? The article certainly seems to be lacking the whole story. Hey Kim, maybe you should talk to others and get the real facts. Perhaps the real book enthusiasts should get together, contact the true owner and donate them to the needy, not the publicity hounds.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated June 26, 2012 - 5:50am

Just chill, even if Kim got a few facts wrong (I have no idea if she did). Approach people with a nice private email instead of a rough public post and it'll be easier to get mistakes corrected. The site is a fairly close knit group, we all vknow each other. So the new guy sounding mean doesn't accomplish much besides raise a knee jerk reaction to ignore you.

Pink_546's picture
Pink_546 June 26, 2012 - 6:14am

First of all this is not her home, second of all her and her husband saved the books. Why just let people go in and take what ever when she has plans for these books just need the help to get them there. If people would read the news papers they would know the real story. Not some carp that is not true at all. She is working hard with others to get these books to the people in need in Canada and other countries. So before we judge people lets think would you do the same to give life back to these book?

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated June 26, 2012 - 6:26am

Not better, but thanks for trying. Nice, not facts.

Anonme1's picture
Anonme1 June 27, 2012 - 8:39pm

Sorry Dwayne - no offense. The article originates from a local paper which did not cover all the facts. The books were actually purchased by another family member. Her husband and other family members spent years working on this project. The article this was derived from just didn't clearly portray the whole truth. I appreciate Kim's take on this though especially after reading all the FB posts.

Kimber's picture
Kimber from Atlanta is reading The Every by Dave Eggers June 27, 2012 - 10:28pm

Just for the record, I read six articles about this situation (most national sources) and visited the Facebook group page and event page before writing this piece. The facts here are consistent with the facts in each of those pieces.

In the end, it doesn't matter how she came upon the collection or how much work she and her husband have put into it so far. What matters is that there are viable alternatives to burning that need to be carefully considered. You'll note also that I said I believe her intentions to be noble.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated June 28, 2012 - 1:18am

It is fine just stay cool.