Friday, August 30, 2013

Organizing a used book sale as a library fundraiser

Each year our Friends of the Library hosts 3 used books & media sales. Two are outside on the front lawn of the library - Memorial Day weekend during the local Arts Festival and Labor Day weekend during the local Book Festival. The third is in February and is inside in the library meeting rooms.

Memorial Day weekend sale 2013
All year round the donations pour in and at times it feels like you are sitting at the bottom of a waterfall. Lots of things the library can put in the collection (dvds, large print books, hardback children's books and current best sellers), lots of them we can put in the sale and I will even try to sell the containers they arrive in such as plastic storage boxes. Anything left after sorting goes to the literacy coordinator who sends books to prisons, homeless shelters, literacy classes, health clinics, etc. Three of us do all the sorting, pricing and boxing up.

The Friends group board members take care of publicity, signs, getting cash, signing up volunteer worker, etc. The library system provides tables and book carts. The guard shows up early the date of the sale to let us in before the library opens.

Then comes the day before the sale. The book carts have to be filled. The 15 tables and all boxes and crates of books have to be moved to the front lobby of the library late in the afternoon.

Saturday morning the sale set up starts at 8am. We rather swarm in, quickly get the tables out and set up. Some people start putting up the signs on each table. Others haul all the boxes/crates of books out and onto or under the tables. Other volunteers "flip" all the books so the spine is up and easily read. The filled carts are brought up from the basement and outside. Our customer service volunteers keep the early bird shoppers at bay and answer their questions. The cashier tables are staffed and ready.

Labor Day weekend sale 2012
At 9am the sale starts and we are swarmed. We get so many used book dealers that we have rules about how they can use scanners and where they have to take their large quantity of purchases for tallying and paying by check.

Volunteers come and go and keep pulling books out of boxes to restock and moving books back to where they belong. Usually by 1:00 or 1:30pm the volume of buyers shrinks to a manageable number and it gets really hot outside (this is Atlanta). We start consolidating categories on table and start removing empty boxes, tables and carts. At 3pm we close and move everything that is left back inside. Typically we make $4,500 to $5,000 at a sale.
My goal always is that we sell every single item! Last time we had about 2 children's books and 3 cookbooks left and only a few more in some non-fiction categories. This time we have lots of VHS movies and music CDs as well so we will see if people still want to buy them.

That is me in the red shirt LOL
Besides the money, it is great to see people of all ages from small children to elderly adults so eager to buy books! Sometimes the children simply sit down in the midst of the action and start looking at their new to them books! I've even seen them sitting under tables to read.

This Saturday it will be hot, dusty and very busy and we will rejoice in it. Wish us luck.


  1. Good luck. Never met a library sale I did not love, and I live near some big libraries. Used to buy in bulk for reselling, now just for my own library, but I cannot resist.

    1. That is great! Library book sales offer some true bargains and a very interesting, and at times odd, selection of books.

  2. Sounds like you've got it down to a system - a very successful model!

    1. I inherited the system and a wonderful board. It works well.