booksIf you are someone that loves books, chances are you have been to a used book sale. They are popular with the community, with some of the larger ones drawing people from fifty miles away – or from other states!

A used book sale can be a terrific fundraiser for a library, and an excellent way to recycle books that would otherwise be discarded at the library.

Facts About Library Used Book Sales

Tom Oram, Co-Owner of lists approximately 50,000 sales at their website each year. “We have probably 5,000 different used book sales from around the country from libraries, that’s from 3,000 libraries. That’s a ballpark figure, most used book sales are from libraries. 75% are from libraries.

Oram thinks many things make a library used book sale so popular as both a fundraiser, and a community event. “It’s a great opportunity for them (the community) to two things one is for the community to donate books to the friends of libraries and also for the people of the community to buy books at really great prices. That’s where the popularity lies. As a fund-raiser, everybody benefits: the people who donate, the people who buy and the people who hold the fund-raiser,” said Oram

The Success of an Ongoing Library Used Book Sale

The Greenwich Library in Greenwich, CT has an ongoing library used book sale at their Café. Called The Book Brigade, the book sale features hardcover books for fifty cents and paperback books for twenty five cents. Funds raised goes towards the Friends of Greenwich Library to present special programs such as films or concerts to the public.

Marsha Fosnot is a Friend of the Greenwich Library and is in charge of the The Book Brigade. “The café manager takes the money from the sale and collects it for us. We give him ten percent of what we make to ‘spur him on’ to collect for us. The sale makes approximately $2,000 a year,” said Fosnot. What is in the sale truly depends on what is in the shelves at the library. “The library is constantly weeding to make room for new acquisitions. We have children’s books, travel books, cookbooks and fiction books. When a new bestseller comes out, the library will buy 20 copies and then they will wind up discarding about 16 into the sale. So it depends on what the library is weeding out,” said Fosnot. Some of the books are damaged and are taken to a recycling place.

“Greenwich Library is sort of unusual, they are a rich library and there are always books available. We constantly get calls from people in the community who want to give us books and we say no because we have too many. The town dump is a place where people can take their books and people can take ten books for free,” said Fosnot.

Fosnot suggests if a library would like to create an ongoing used book sale, they need to have shelves available for the sale. “Someone has to collect the money or an honor system of putting money in a box. It (the sale) really would be library dependent if you could do a library book sale. It is so library specific, depending on the library situation. It is small money per book, dependent on volume and having a large amount of books,” said Fosnot.

Large Used Book Sales Equal Large Numbers

Two libraries that hold periodic sales are the University of Wisconsin-Madison Library sale which is held twice a year, and the Plano Texas Public Library sale which is held once a year.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Library has a sale once in October and once in March. “The October book sale is held at the same time as a book festival held in Madison that brings a lot of authors to speak and read from their books,” said Tom Garver. Garver is a Liaison with the Friends of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Library Book Sale.  The sale in March of 2007 raised $25,178 to benefit the library.  Around 15,000 books are sold at each sale, 30,000 each year. The sale is primarily books but they also sell a small number of LPs and CDs as well.

The Friends of Plano Public Library holds their sale each year at the Plano Centre convention center.  The 26th Annual Book Sale held July 30 – August 1, 2009 raised over $44,000.  An additional $43,000 was raised in year-long Friends Lobby Sales held at each of the five Plano libraries. “Since 2000, our Friends Book Sales have raised over $440,000,” said Sandy Gillman, Library Staff Liaison to Friends of the Plano Public Library and the Davis Library Manager.

Funds raised from the sales benefit the five libraries in the Plano Public Library System. “This year Friends will make a $100,000 donation to assist in changing English as a second language video and tapes to CD and DVD, as well as children’s books on tape to CD. Additionally, the Friends fund our yearly family programming events, summer reading, and stipends for librarians to attend conferences,” said Gillman.

High Quality Books Make a Big Difference

“One thing that’s appreciated by our customers is the high quality of our books, some are discards from the University, and some are from professors who are cleaning their shelves or who may have died. We have acquired books from this source; it is a very high class, high quality sale. It is very interesting that the man who runs the sale that the man who runs the sale worked for years in the conservation department off the library,” said Garver.

The quality of the books is critical. “There is no question about it. I make an effort to be sure we have a high quality in our inventory, to get rid of the junky stuff,” said Garver. “I would say that I discard 40% of the stuff we get right away, from the box it comes in right into the recycling. The advantage is that we get more books than we need. So we can be pretty choosy,” said Garver.

Their book sale is a combination of discards from the library system and many donations. They have their donation system very well-organized. “The way it works is people contact us and say they have books to donate. If they are able to, they leave them at the loading dock. We have a large cage adjacent to the mail room they put them in there. The books are all sorted by subjects. So the books are well sorted – one of the principal sorters is a retired professor of comparative literature,” said Garver.

A Multi Day Fundraiser Reaches a Wide Audience

Both the University of Wisconsin and Plano Library sales are multi day events. The University of Wisconsin sale is held over four days, and it is popular on each of the four days. Garver recognizes that they have a bit of a different type of book buyer on each of the days. “It opens on a Wednesday evening from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.; you pay five dollars to get in. The prices of the books are twice as high for the books on this day when the selections are largest. This is when we get the most book dealers. These people are not gentile about buying books; they will snatch armloads of books and sort through them. They recognize that paying a premium is still a good deal for them, a premium at our sale is still very inexpensive. We have a lot of dealers who sell only on the internet. Many people just have a base of books that they sell on eBay or Amazon,” said Garver.

They have a wide variety of books at their sale, one of the reasons they are so very popular. “Well we get pretty much things across the board, but pretty much things of an academic nature. Scholarly books show up at our sale. We do get a few romance paperbacks, Danielle Steel is always there and we do get cookbooks as everyone likes to cook. The majority of the books come from the community, outside of the campus. A good number are also library discards,” said Jim Dast, the Book Sale Manager for the Friends of University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries.

At the Plano Library sale the opening night is called the “First Nighter Sale,” and there is an admission of $5 per individual or $10 per family. The second and third day of the sale offer free admission. Hardbacks are $1.50, paperbacks are seventy-five cents and audios, videos and CDs are $1.50. They also have a ‘Collector’s Corner’ with rare books and first editions for sale at their book sales. The sale does not charge sales tax.

Teams of Volunteers Needed for a Successful Sale

The set up for the large book sale takes teamwork and great organizational skills. “Set up on a Monday takes all of Monday to set up in a large room of the library first floor Memorial Library. Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday open the sale to the library bibliographers, they will look over the books that are there and they take away several hundred to run a check and see if they have them for the library,” said Garver.

They have 40 volunteers working on the sale with 2 different types of volunteers. There is a group of 4 to 5 volunteers that work year-round collecting books. Other volunteers work on a regular basis helping sort the books, determining where they will go, guarding the entrance door, taking the money, resorting the books and generally keeping an eye on things.

The Friends of Plano Public Library Book Sale is staffed by many dedicated volunteers, an estimated 400 plus volunteers help out each year.  A special group of about 24 volunteers work throughout the year sorting donated library materials into subject categories in preparation for the Book Sale. They start planning the next year’s book sale “immediately” following the book sale, making reservations for the next sale.

Whether ongoing or once-a-year, a library used book sale can be an excellent opportunity to raise much needed funds for your public or private library!

Posted on 25 September 2009

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