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Library Book Sale Tips

Updated on May 28, 2015
Virginia Allain profile image

A librarian through and through, Virginia Allain writes about book topics and information for library users and librarians.

Hold a Successful Library Booksale

Over my 30 years of library work, I planned and worked at many book sales. It's a great fundraiser for a library.

Usually the book sale is planned and put on by the Friends of the Library group. Their volunteers collect the books, sort them, schedule the sale, promote it and hold the sale. Most libraries are not staffed adequately to put on such an event without these volunteers.

Here are tips for holding a successful library book sale.

(photo by Virginia Allain)

Tips for Storing the Books for the Sale

  1. Ideally the donations are stored in the same building where the sale is to be held. Many libraries lack extra storage space, so other storage arrangements must be made. Try to get storage space donated in a private garage, empty storefront or a storage unit.
  2. If you can roughly sort the books by the sale categories into boxes for storing, it will save a lot of time later.
  3. Having a climate-controlled storage area is better for the books and certainly better for the volunteers who come to sort the books.
  4. Ask the librarian to save the boxes from book shipments. These will be sturdy enough to stack when filled with books. Liquor stores have strong boxes also. Do not get really large boxes as they are difficult to move once they are full of books. You don't want any back injuries among the volunteers.



You'll Need Lots of Boxes for All the Donations

setting up library book sale
setting up library book sale | Source

Volunteers Are the Life Savers in Prepping a Book Sale

That's an awfully big box but apparently not full or she wouldn't be able to lift it.
That's an awfully big box but apparently not full or she wouldn't be able to lift it.

What Should Not Be in the Booksale

  1. Any books that are damp or moldy.
  2. Books that the library wants for their collection. It doesn't make sense to sell a donated book for 50 cents or a dollar, when the library needs that title and would have to pay $10 or $25 for a new copy.
  3. You may be tempted to exclude donated magazines, old encyclopedias or Reader's Digest Condensed Books, but these can be a draw at the book sale. Set aside an area for super bargains and put the unsellables there. Price them very low, like 5 cents a piece or $1 a bag. People will buy them. Some magazines (Mother Earth News, crafts, unusual titles) are desirable enough to go in the regular sale. Bundle them together and sell for one price, not by the individual magazine.
  4. Pull out books that look special (signed by the author, vintage books, some recent textbooks). Check these on Amazon to see if you could sell them for more on there. Here are Tips for Online Book Sales by the Friends of the Tippecanoe County Public Library in Indiana.

Where to Hold the Sale

  • Make sure the location has plenty of parking
  • Find a free space so all the money from the sale is profit. Most sales are in the library's meeting room, but you could use a tent on the lawn. Sometimes a business will let you use an empty store for the sale.

Springvale, Maine - Library Booksale on the Library Lawn

Be prepared with plastic or tarps to cover the tables if it should rain.
Be prepared with plastic or tarps to cover the tables if it should rain. | Source

Setting Up the Library Booksale - Youtube videos

Note the signs, layout, display methods...

How Often Does Your Library Hold a Book Sale?

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You'll Need Tables

Most libraries or other venues have folding tables to use for events like this. If they are not available, ask the volunteers to bring tables that they have. I've even seen book sales with the books in boxes (spine up) and the boxes placed in rows on the library lawn. Tables are a lot more convenient for browsers though.

Office Star Resin Multipurpose Rectangle Table, 6-Feet, Center Folding
Office Star Resin Multipurpose Rectangle Table, 6-Feet, Center Folding

These folding tables are much more lightweight than the wood or composite-topped tables. If you don't have light tables like these, enlist some strong husbands or sons to move the tables. Don't count on the library janitor for moving all the tables. He/she has a full workload keeping the library clean.

 

Tips for Getting Ready for the Sale

Categories for the Books at the Book Sale

With a really large sale, you can break the categories down even more. Make it easy for people to find the kinds of books they really like. They will buy more.


  • FICTION, CHILDREN'S FICTION (you can break the fiction down into more categories if you have a lot of romance, mystery, etc.)
  • NONFICTION: GARDENING, POETRY, LITERATURE, COOKING, HOW TO, RELIGION, HISTORY, TRAVEL, BIOGRAPHY
  • NEARLY NEW (price these individually), VINTAGE

Distribute Lots of Posters and Flyers

This sale is held next door to the library in a large concert space on the 2nd floor of the town hall.
This sale is held next door to the library in a large concert space on the 2nd floor of the town hall. | Source

Promoting the Library Used Book Sale

  • Here is great advice for ways to publicize a library book sale. Book Sale Scout recommends online sites to promote the sale in addition to the usual press releases to the newspaper.
  • List your Friends of the Library book sale in Book Sale Finder and also Book Sale Manager.
  • Of course, you'll want to have posters around the library and give each person a bookmark or flyer at check out with the book sale date and time on it.

Promote Your Book Sale - Photos by Virginia Allain of Posters and Flyers

This sign was on a person-sized, cut-out figure (see below). As you walked into the library's lobby, you couldn't miss it. Great advertisement.
This sign was on a person-sized, cut-out figure (see below). As you walked into the library's lobby, you couldn't miss it. Great advertisement. | Source
This life-sized figure can be stored for use next year. Just change the small sign with the new dates and information.
This life-sized figure can be stored for use next year. Just change the small sign with the new dates and information.
Hand out reminders at the current sale for the next one. Keep your buyers coming back.
Hand out reminders at the current sale for the next one. Keep your buyers coming back. | Source
Have signs for different categories and prices. You can laminate the signs and save them to use in future years.
Have signs for different categories and prices. You can laminate the signs and save them to use in future years.
A sign at the entrance to the book sale that explains the pricing.
A sign at the entrance to the book sale that explains the pricing.
Here they wrote the times for the book sale on a white board. Unfortunately it doesn't look very professional and isn't very eye-catching.
Here they wrote the times for the book sale on a white board. Unfortunately it doesn't look very professional and isn't very eye-catching.

More to Come...

I'm just getting started here, but wanted to have the information available as soon as possible. Each day I'll add more tips, so it will be more complete.

Keep the Money Safe

Always have someone with the cash box.
Always have someone with the cash box. | Source

Useful Supplies for a Used Book Sale

Master Lock 7113D
Master Lock 7113D

Even though it is locking, do not leave it unattended. Someone should always be at the table where it is.

When a large amount builds up in the cash box, have the treasurer of the Friends of the Library take it away to a safe place. Usually the library has a place to lock up valuables.

 

Book Sale Sign in the Library Window

At this sale, they aren't accepting checks. It is cash only. That might limit a few buyers unfortunately.
At this sale, they aren't accepting checks. It is cash only. That might limit a few buyers unfortunately. | Source
Canon P23-DH V 2 color mini-Desktop Printing Calculator
Canon P23-DH V 2 color mini-Desktop Printing Calculator

If you have enough volunteers, have one check the books for prices while another totals them with the calculator. A 3rd volunteer can take payment and give change.

It gets frustrating for the buyers if they have to stand in line a long time to pay.

Make sure the one handling the change has experience in that, so they will be quick and not easily flustered.

 

What Is Your Interest in Library Book Sales?

A library book sale held in the library courtyard.
A library book sale held in the library courtyard. | Source

Are You Library Staff or a Volunteer?

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Source

© 2012 Virginia Allain

Share Your Suggestions for a Book Sale

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    • Lorelei Cohen profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      4 years ago from Canada

      I love the look of old books so much that I would have difficulty parting with any.

    • TeacherSerenia profile image

      TeacherSerenia 

      6 years ago

      My local library has recently been renovated in order to have the self serve checkout (where patrons check out their own books) and that includes more shelves. There is now even a shelf section that is permanently used for Book sales, where as they previously used to have tables and trolleys. I regularly used to pick up some real bargains from the sales tables. Now I look forward to picking some bargains from the sales shelves.

    • shreeve21 profile image

      shreeve21 

      6 years ago

      love this lens! I am a huge book nerd, really enjoyed this lens. good job!

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 

      6 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      I have never done this fundraiser, but it sounds great. Libraries tend to have a lot of books donated they cannot use, as well as books they need to weed from their collections to make room for more popular titles. This would be a great way to raise some money for more books!

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