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Shaunna Raycraft is lost in a mountain of books. (CBC)

What began as a book rescue mission has become a literary nightmare for a Pike Lake, Sask., woman.

Shaunna Raycraft took over a collection of 350,000 books when a neighbour threatened to burn them after her collector husband passed away.

But now Raycraft and her own husband don't know what to do with all the books and are forced to contemplate burning some books themselves.

Floor to ceiling books

Raycraft said she was amazed when she first set eyes on the massive collection kept by their neighbours on a nearby acreage. "There was a house floor-to-ceiling with books," said Raycraft. "He was the collector; she had tried to get someone to appraise the books but they wouldn't come out [to the rural setting]."

"She didn't know how to deal with them so she started to burn them," Raycraft explained.

Book lovers

But the Raycrafts are book lovers and couldn't stand the sight of them being destroyed. Some of the books appear to be old and quite rare. "There was a first edition copy of Black Beauty on the top pile and the bottom was all charred off [from being burned] but the top was just immaculate," she said. 

'We're talking 30 tonnes of books.'—Shaunna Raycraft

So Raycraft and her husband plunged in and took over the collection, bringing a small house onto their property to accommodate all the books. They piled box after box of books into the house.

"We're talking 30 tonnes of books. The weight of the books is pulling the house apart."

The books range from old textbooks to volumes of Shakespeare to 'How-To' manuals.

Raycraft tried selling the books on eBay, and to collectors and used book stores, but no one wants the task of sorting through them.

End of the road

So now the Raycrafts have come to the end of the road with all the books. "We are kind of at a standstill," said Raycraft. "I work at two jobs. My husband is a full-time student. We have three kids and no time. And no money. And so we're at the point now where were looking at having to burn some of the books ourselves."

Raycraft said the books need to be in a climate-controlled setting. And they need help and expertise sorting through them. Or just help disposing of them.

"My goal is to get a sea container brought to the house. Most of the boxes are still unopened and unsorted. When you say to somebody,'I have 350,000 books,' it just goes over their head — they have no concept. It's very hard to take a box in and say, 'Here, sort through this and see what you want.'"

Raycraft said she has no idea how much the entire collection is worth but is looking for suggestions as to what to do with it.