Why you should always check out your local Friends of the Library book sale

I simply adore libraries. They’re such wonderful third spaces for free community events, workshops, and resources. And of course, there are the books. Whether you’re partial to obscure antiquarian reads or the latest BookTok titles, you can enjoy everything for free. As a thrifty bookworm, I also love checking out library book sales, which are usually run by a non-profit group of volunteers called the Friends of the Library. While library book sales aren’t free, they feature incredibly affordable prices, so you can grow your home library without spending a pretty penny — as someone who usually cuts her teeth close on due dates, this is a perk of having a personal collection! 

Like thrifting for antiques, browsing a library book sale selection can be a bit of a treasure hunt. It fills me with a sense of wonder to dig through dusty donated books to find my next favorite reads. I never know what I’ll find — it could be the Murakami memoir that gets me running again or a gardening encyclopedia that I repeatedly reference for work. 

If you’ve ever been curious about checking out your local library book sale, I highly recommend doing it. Here are a few pointers for browsing your local Friends of the Library collection!

Where can you find a library book sale?

Library bookshelf
My library’s used book sale section.

You can always ask a librarian about where and when your local branch holds its book sales. Most libraries have a dedicated used book sale section near the entrance. You can pick out your favorite titles and simply slip money into a sealed metal cash box — yup, most of them go by the honor system! You can basically browse these areas whenever the library is open. 

Volunteer-run Friends of the Library book sale events take place anywhere from once per month to once per year depending on your location. Typically, you’ll find these big library book sales in a conference room or just outside of the library — there will likely be rows and rows of tables with just books — doesn’t that sound like a dream? 

Books in a box
Just boxes and boxes of books at my city’s annual library book sale event.

With my limited library experience in northern California, I have noticed that central city or county libraries (such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in San Jose and the Chavez Library in Stockton) have dedicated stores for their Friends of the Library selection. With these “stores,” the vetted selection is usually very organized and affordable — but still a tad more expensive than your less organized used library book sale corner. 

How much do books cost at a library book sale?

25 cents fiction sign on shelf
25 cents a pop.

You can find amazing deals on used books at library book sales. At my local branch, most books are 25 cents, unless they have a special price sticker on them. And unless inflation has really caused prices to skyrocket, I don’t remember most library sale items being any more than 2 bucks in the Bay Area. Occasionally, I’ve also seen a free materials cart for books that are in rough but readable condition. 

Besides enjoying affordable prices, you can also rest easy knowing that the funds go toward library programs and materials, so you’re essentially giving back to services that you’re probably already using. 

What can you buy at a library book sale?

Cozy mysteries
I love digging around for cozy mysteries at library book sale events.

There’s usually a little bit of everything for everyone at a library book sale shelf or event. Most of the time, the books are withdrawn titles or gently used donations. (Pro-tip: You can declutter your bookshelf by contributing to these book sales!) I’ve seen manga, gardening guides, classics, literary fiction, magazine titles, DVDs, self-help books, memoirs, and so much more! If your library has a robust Friends of the Library program, the diligent volunteers may even organize the books by genre and author last names.

Personally, I love digging around for cozy mysteries — think books by authors like Joanne Fluke, Sofie Kelly, and Krista Davis. Library book sales are pretty rad if you love genre fiction, especially romance, history, sci-fi, thriller, and mystery.

I hope that this quick blog inspired you to drop by your local library to check out its used book sale corner. It’s basically like thrifting for books — but even if you don’t have cash on you, you can always browse free library materials mere steps away!