A librarian through and through, Virginia Allain writes about book topics, researching, and information for library users and librarians.
Book Sale Tips
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.
You'll Need Lots of Boxes for All the Donations
Tips for Storing the Books for the Sale
- 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.
- If you can roughly sort the books by the sale categories into boxes for storing, it will save a lot of time later.
- Having a climate-controlled storage area is better for the books and certainly better for the volunteers who come to sort the books.
- 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.
Volunteers Are the Life Savers in Prepping a Book Sale
What Should Not Be in the Booksale
- Any books that are damp or moldy.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Springvale, Maine - Library Booksale on the Library Lawn
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.
Setting Up the Library Booksale - Youtube videos
Note the signs, layout, display methods...
How Often Does Your Library Hold a Book Sale?
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.
Lightweight Tables to Display Sale Books on
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 (you can break the fiction down into more categories if you have a lot of romance, mystery, etc.)
- CHILDREN'S FICTION or include nonfiction for children and call it Children's Books
- NONFICTION: GARDENING, POETRY, LITERATURE, COOKING, HOW TO, RELIGION, HISTORY, TRAVEL, BIOGRAPHY
- NEARLY NEW (price these individually)
- VINTAGE or Rare or Collectible
Distribute Lots of Posters and Flyers
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.
- When people pay for their books, have a clipboard there for them to put their email if they want to be notified of future sales.
Promote Your Book Sale - Photos by Virginia Allain of Posters and Flyers
Libraries Share Their Ideas for a Successful Book Sale
Be aware of city or state laws that might affect the sale of withdrawn library books. Here's an example for the State of Iowa. Friends Book Sales - State Library of Iowa
Boost Book Sale Revenue with Special Pricing
Keep the Money Safe
Have a Locking Cash Box and an Adding Machine
The Cash Box
Get one of those metal ones with compartments for the change and a lift-out tray. Put the large bills under the tray.
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 or if your treasurer has the time, deposit it in the bank. That way there won't be huge amounts of money in the cash box if someone makes a grab for it.
The Adding Machine
A mini-desktop printing calculator will work fine and the print-out will come in handy.
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 for 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.
The reason you want one with a print-out is so you can check it if there's any question about double ring-up or not getting everything counted. Some customers like having a receipt to take home.
What Is Your Interest in Library Book Sales?
Are You Library Staff or a Volunteer?
Book Sale Sign in the Library Window
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Virginia Allain
Share Your Suggestions for a Book Sale
Lorelei Cohen on July 29, 2014:
I love the look of old books so much that I would have difficulty parting with any.
TeacherSerenia on June 09, 2012:
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 on May 25, 2012:
love this lens! I am a huge book nerd, really enjoyed this lens. good job!
Frischy from Kentucky, USA on May 25, 2012:
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!