Safeway has removed book donation bins from its stores in Berkeley, Lafayette and Orinda, pleasing local library advocates who had questioned the bins' connection to a for-profit seller.

The company removed the bins early this month, Safeway spokeswoman Susan Houghton said.

The large blue donation boxes were placed outside about 90 Northern California Safeway stores in April by the national organization Reading Tree, which has close ties to Lakewood, Wash.-based online retailer Thrift Recycling Management.

A Reading Tree executive told Bay Area News Group in June that Thrift manages the bins and about 25 percent of donated books are sold to pay for Thrift's services.

That relationship alarmed some "friends of the library" groups, which raise money to support local libraries through their own used book stores. They worried that the bins would send a major revenue source -- donated books -- out of state, with some of the books to be sold for profit.

However, Safeway said they had a different arrangement with Reading Tree that stipulated no donated books would be sold. The company offered the library groups access to the bins and said they could have any of the donated books they wanted, an arrangement that did not interest the Lafayette and Orinda groups.

"I didn't want to, you know, be a hoarder and take all of the books," said Sharon Lingane, who manages the Friends Corner Book Store in Lafayette. "I want people to be able to donate books to us as well as the (local) thrift shops."

Houghton said the donation program is designed to help communities, not hurt them. Along with Bay Area-based Reading Partners, Safeway gave away 35,000 books in May, including 1,000 to the Sunnyvale Friends of the Library, she added.

"We certainly never want to force a good program on the community," Houghton said. "We think it could have helped (the friends groups), they believe that it could not, and so we're concentrating donations in other areas."

Although pleased the bins are gone, Friends of the Orinda Library Treasurer Linda Landau worries about donation boxes at other locations that do not have Safeway's no-books-sold arrangement.

"I hate to see books dumped into and out of bins and being damaged in the process," she said. "The potential value of the books is not being maximized as it would be by local volunteers for the benefit of local communities."