Behind the Scenes at a Library Book Sale
I’ve been volunteering at Bozeman Public Library‘s used book sales longer than I’ve had this blog. I was inspired to volunteer because I always went to the sales and loved talking to the other shoppers about what they were picking out.
Three times a year, my local library hosts a used book sale that lasts three days. It’s put on by a group called Friends of Bozeman Public Library. The books are donated to that group, who then sorts them and sells some at the coffee shop in the library year round, and the rest at the sales. The money from book sales goes toward funding new release books, and other resources for the library.
Volunteers unbox all the books and set up the sale areas on a Thursday afternoon. I volunteer on Fridays, which is when the sale is open only for the members of The Friends of the BPL group. (Members pay an annual fee, and early entry to the sale is one of the benefits.) This night is always hectic, and buyers are usually quite serious.
Saturday the sale runs from 10am-5pm. All books are sold individually. I generally skip this day.
Sunday is my favorite day, Bag Sale Day. This is when shoppers can fill a bag with books for a set price of $2-$5 depending on the size of the bag.
Of course I love filling a bag (or three…) But mostly I love helping out on bag day because shoppers are much more likely to take my recommendations! I’ve been at the sales long enough now that I’ve made some connections and visit with repeat customers.
My job throughout my shift, is to keep the books tidy and easily viewable for shoppers. This often means taking books from the floor up to the tables. What this looks like is me crawling around on the floor between shoppers feet!
When I first started volunteering, I noticed shoppers weren’t too talkative. Now I know I just need to get them going by recommending books and asking what they like to read. Sometimes the customer I initiate a conversation with isn’t interested, but someone else overhears us and wants the book instead, or asks for help finding other options.
And of course, the best perk of volunteering is that I essentially get hours to browse the tables full of books! Volunteers are allowed to acquire books as they work, and I always have a stack going. Even when I tell myself I won’t find anything this time, I still do!
Our most recent sale was this past weekend. This is the stack I came home with Friday night, at $2 each:
Bag day is frantic. Shoppers line up outside the library, even in below freezing temperatures up to an hour before the sale starts! One of the volunteers will give us warnings at 10 minutes, 5 minutes, and one minute until the doors open and the crowd pours in! Then it’s lots of grabbing books and filling bags. I scramble to keep the books orderly as others are flying off the tables!
While I’m working, I pick books I’d considered previously, or ones I’ve heard of and am curious about. I also like to use this day to pick up books to gift throughout the year.
My friend Britney has joined me to help out at the last few bag day sales. We have similar personalities and both love moving the books around to keep them orderly.
Here’s what I came home with on bag day. This stack is all fiction:
And this one is all non-fiction:
This doesn’t include the three puzzles I picked up, along with a few Italian language books and two novels to gift!
When I get home from a shift at the sale, I am fatigued physically and mentally, but I’m happy and have new books! Volunteering at the sales is so fulfilling for me, even though it’s hard work. Since I work from home, I appreciate the opportunity to move my body, lift some books, and chat with shoppers. I thrive with connection and enjoying sharing recommendations and stories with other book lovers. I also feel good doing something that helps the library and in doing so, the entire community.
Does your library hold sales like this? Have you considered volunteering? I encourage you to give it a try. not only to be exposed to great used books, but also to connect with like minded folks.