African Library Project


Step 4 - Pack your books so they arrive in great shape

Now that you know which books to send, it’s time to pack them up and get them on the way to Africa!

We recommend that you have a book packing party, with lots of volunteers to pack up the books together. Serve some pizza, play some music and have lot of fun as you prepare to mail your books!

We have lots of experience in knowing how to pack books. Trust us and follow these steps:


  • Gather the right supplies.
    • Wide packing tape (optional: with tape gun), 2 inches wide
    • Heavy duty, large plastic bags (trash compactor bags are ideal.) NOTE: Do not include these for Kenya -there is a national ban on alll plastic bags.
    • Small-sized cardboard boxes (about 10x13x12 in.) in good condition. (Ask grocery stores and coffee shops for sturdy boxes. USPS will not accept boxes that originally carried wine or liquor, unless you wrap these in brown paper (too much work!).)
    • Bold felt-tip permanent markers
    • Air packs or other packing material to go in empty spaces in the boxes
    • One Book Packing Slip (.pdf, .doc) for each box, per project.
  • Follow these six steps to pack the books. (Friendly reminder: Don't skip any steps!) ;-)
    1. Use packing tape to reinforce all seams on the bottom and on the side edge of the box (where the box is glued together).
    2. Line the bottom of the box with a second layer of cardboard for extra strength.
    3. Line the box with a clean, dry trash compactor bag (the books go inside the the garbage bag). This protects the books from moisture. Do NOT do this for boxes to Kenya -there is a national ban on plastic bags.
    4. Organize the books you have sorted according to size.PackYourBooks-JJ-PA_23
    5. Think of the box as a 3-D jigsaw puzzle and pack as many books as possible into the box. This may take several tries, but a box that is loosely packed may be crushed in transit to Africa. If there is an empty space you cannot fill with books, use air packs, styrofoam peanuts or other packing materials to fill it. Boxes that are overpacked will rip open. Small and medium boxes that weigh under 40 pounds handle and ship the best. The United States Postal Service will not accept Media Mail boxes over 70 pounds. Boxes that are overpacked will rip open.
      • Small and medium boxes that weigh under 40 pounds handle and ship the best. Heavier boxes often do not make it safely to Africa. You can weigh your boxes on the bathroom scale to check their weight.
  • Before you close the box, fill out completely one Book Packing Slip (.pdf, .doc) for each box. 
    • Place this form on top of the books inside the box. Be sure to include your group's name, address, and email address if you like so your library knows where the books came from and can contact you.
    • If you like, include pictures or letters from your group to your African partners. Some African libraries post these letters, photos and messages in their new libraries to put a personal face on where the books came from.
    • Tell us the date the boxes are mailed, the total number of books and number of boxes.  The warehouse will be told how many boxes to expect for your bookdrive.
  • Carefully fold the trash compactor bag shut and tuck the edges down the inside edges of the box. Do NOT do this for boxes to Kenya.Pack_Your_Books_-JJ_MV_ALP_1
  • Close the box securely. Squeeze the box flaps together tightly, then tape all remaining edges to seal the box.
  • If the boxes have printing on them (e.g. product information, old labels, etc.) use a magic marker to cross through the writing so there is no confusion about the contents. Note: USPS will not accept wine or alcohol boxes, even if you cross through their marking.
  • If the return address is not your return address, please contact your Container Manager to create new mailing labels.
    • Include your organization's name and your own name--without this information, we will not be able to match the books to your school at the warehouse.
    • Print out the labels and securely tape one to the top of each box. Completely cover your label with tape.  We've had quite a few boxes not make it to the warehouse because the label has gotten ripped off en route.

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