12.06.2010

Buying Used Books at Library Sales

A brand new book, crisp and clean, is a thing of beauty. But it's not always possible or affordable to buy new. That's where used books, one of the most wonderful forms of recycling, come in. Most of the books I buy are used. I find them at many different places -  library book sales, thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, used book stores and online.

What I like about going to book sales is the unexpected - you don't know what will be there or what you will find. It's the thrill of the hunt, finding books by authors or illustrators that you like. Equally satisfying is finding a illustrator (or author or subject matter) you like, whose work is new to you.

Over the next few weeks I will be posting a four part series on different methods of buying used books. This first part of the series is about library book sales.


photography credits


It's easy to find out when the library is having a book sale, just go to their website. On my library website I click on programs, scroll down and click on book sales. An even better way to find sales is the Book Sale Finder  which has listings for book sales, book fairs, book auctions and other book events all over the United States and Canada. Sale Mail is a special feature of Book Sale Finder that sends you an email a week beforehand to let you know when and where the sales are in your area. Both are free, all you have to do is register. When I get an email, I mark it on the calendar. With Sale Mail you specify a certain mile radius, so you can find out about upcoming sales, however near or far you want to travel. Fortunately there are several library branches in my city, plus smaller towns with libraries that are close.

Buying books at a library sale comes with a bonus - supporting your local library, which is always good. Where I live you can become a Friend of the Library by paying a $5.00 fee. In turn you get first crack at the sales. Even so, there are many times I don't get to a sale early and I always find something.

At library sales many books are in very good to excellent condition. Sometimes new books are available. Conversely, there are many old books. This is great for collecting and gift giving. (Not to mention your pocketbook.) It adds up to a lot of books, which I love, meaning you can browse for as long as you want. Books are usually organized in a library fashion, so if you just want to look at one genre and go, you can. 

Average prices for a book vary between 75 cents and 3 dollars. Many library sales will have a section of more expensive and/or collectible books that are still offered at great prices. Don't forget to check out the bargain room, you never know what you may find. I once bought an old book that was about an Alice in Wonderland silent movie, with many old black/white photos in it for 50 cents. The book wasn't in the best condition, hence its place in the bargain room. A book seller at the time, I sold it, which I regret to this day. It was before I started collecting different editions of Alice in Wonderland - it would have fit it beautifully. Books in poorer condition can serve other purposes;  for inspiration or ideas, collages, crafts, picture framings, idea boards, school projects, even as gift wrap for smaller presents.

If you are in the market for children's books as I am, condition can be an issue. Books heavily used by children show their wear - but hey, that's a good thing. If I really like the illustrations, I'll buy it anyway. Since I'm only paying 75 cents or so, I can afford to buy a nicer copy when it comes along. That being said, I have often bought children's books in nice condition at library sales. Often times the last hour of the sale you can fill up a bag  (usually a brown paper grocery sack) with books for a specified amount,  maybe $3 - $5.00, setting yourself up with a stash of books to read for a pittance. 

To recap, library sales have a wide variable selection. You need to plan ahead a little and mark  it on your calendar. You're supporting the library. Prices are good. It's a good place to buy books as gifts. Allow yourself time to browse or make a beeline if you want. Some people just go for the bag sale. If you go to library sales often enough, you'll get to know the people there and make new friends. In my book, it's win-win at the library sales.








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