5 Tips to Get the Most Out of a Library Sale

by Jennifer Scott on 8 October 2010 3 comments

If you're a book lover and a thrifty spender like myself, you're already familiar with library book sales. In which case, we can probably swap stories about getting elbowed out of the way to be the first to get to a hot bestseller, or having to sit on a stack of great finds to keep the vultures from picking at books you've already picked out. Library sales aren't always for the faint of heart, and the huge selection plus low prices can be overwhelming. Follow these tips for a better trip next time:

Get there early

They know you mean business when you're in line at 9 a.m. on a Saturday. I find my fellow shoppers at that hour are often seasoned library sale vets and are a little more considerate. Plus, before the crowds pick up, you can sometimes have great conversations with the folks manning the sale, which can yield a deeper discount or a special book they've been hiding in the back.

Bring your own bags

If you can't carry it home, you can't buy it. I have to take a train and a bus to get to my library's main branch, which means it's pretty impossible for me to buy more than I can carry. If you're driving to your library, only using the bags you bring will help you rein yourself in.

Don't bring a ton of cash

At 50 cents and $1 a book, you can get a pretty hefty haul going for not a lot of money. And stick to it. Definitely don't rush up to your fiancé, grab the two books he has and add them to your already full three baskets, yelling, "I'll man the books! You go to the ATM!"

Commit yourself to just a few laps

As soon as you've pored over a table and come away with your finds, a librarian comes out with a full cart to replace the books you just took… so now you have to go back and look at those books. You could do this all day, but you're going to run out of time, cash, space in your bag, and patience. Quickly.

Ask yourself "Will I read this?" and answer honestly

If the voice in your head (what, don't we all have those?) says, "I've been wanting to read this" or "Oooh my favorite author!" or "I wouldn't have paid full price for it, but I'll read it for $1" then by all means put it in the basket. But if the words "might" or "should" come into play, leave it where it is. You don't need to waste even $1 on something you don't really want that will take up room on your shelf.

Bonus tip: Holy cow, is this a great place to find offbeat gifts. I got a girlfriend some Sweet Valley High books at a library sale once, because we grew up reading and collecting them. I've used old cooking magazines to cull recipes for custom recipe books, and if you know anyone with a record player there are almost always really incredible albums for sale.

Now that you know how to get the most out of a library sale, how do you know where to find them? Keep reading, of course:

  • Book Sale Finder — The site is crowded with ads, and a little disorganized, but it's pretty easy to drill down to your state and find sales you had no idea were happening all around you.
     
  • Library Book Sales — Great for serious book collectors, this site lets you search specific books, topics, or libraries for older, nicer books.
     
  • Your local library's website — Some libraries, like the Boston Public Library, have book sales on certain days of the month so you'll always know when to go. Others have more fluid schedules, so be sure to check the site or call before you head out.

You're armed with savvy tips and tricks to help you support your reading habit and your local library without abusing your wallet. Now you just have to figure out where to put all those books…

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Guest's picture

Great tips Jennifer!  It's easy to get caught up in the moment when cheap books are begging to be bought!  I try to control how many books I get by limiting myself to reading 2-3 books at a time. I have to finish the books before I buy anymore. 

Another reason to limit book purchases is space.  Books can take up a lot of room, so being selective and selling the books you've finished saves you money and space!

Guest's picture

These are awesome tips...I love the imagery of "I'll man the books." Hilarious.

Best tip I think is the "Will I read it test?"...This goes for other purchases too.

Guest's picture

Love the "unique gifts" idea! I already get used books for the kids at Christmas through online retailers but I never thought of library sales. Thanks!