What would you do with 350,000 books?

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First aired on The Morning Edition (6/6/11)

What would you do with 350,000 books? That's the problem Saskatchewan resident Shaunna Raycraft has. After learning that her neighbour, who felt overwhelmed by the collection after the death of her husband, was burning books simply to get rid of them, Raycraft stepped in. "[Burning books] went against everything we sort of thought about when it comes to books," Raycroft told Morning Edition host Sheila Cole in a recent interview. Raycraft agreed to buy them — only to discover that there were 350,000 of them.

The collection is vast. "There's everything you can think of," Raycraft said. It includes 1920s how-to manuals, a first edition of Black Beauty, 30 years of Chatelaine magazine and memoirs covering everything from one man's quest to hunt big game in Africa to one woman's account of the devastation her community experienced during the Second World War. Raycraft's collection is diverse as it is vast, and she wants to share this rich resource with others.

She's hoping to use the books to open a reference library, but the demands of working full time and raising a family have meant she hasn't been able to devote the time, energy and resources required to make this dream a reality. In fact, she's started to debate whether she should burn some of the books herself.

Raycraft is currently storing the collection in her new house. Yes, she bought an entire new house to store all the books. But the house is collapsing under the weight of the collection, and Raycroft is certain the house won't last much longer. "We're out of time," she admitted. "With books, if you want to preserved them, they have to be in climate control, they have to be taken care of."

Raycraft still has hope that another book lover will come out of the woodwork and help make her dream a reality. She wants to sort the books, and get the gems in the hands of people who will appreciate them.

The beleaguered book lover is open to suggestion: so, what would you do with 350,000 books?

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