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Learn how to show library book sales here. This is my absolute favorite way to buy books cheap (usually $1-2 each). I have completely filled my bookshelves with these great finds! You’ll get all my best tips and tricks for maximizing your shopping experience. Get started below.

collage of library book sale photos.

How to Shop Library Book Sales

A library book sale is a used book sale (though you can find unread books there too). Patrons donate books, which the library sells at cheap prices (usually $1-2) on a given date or dates to benefit the library.

Find a library book sale near you.

First, locate a book sale you want to attend. I use Book Sale Finder for this purpose.

Take note of sales marked “Big Sale.” There will be a lot more books, but there will also be a lot more people and rules to follow. My library’s semi-annual sale is considered “big” and it has 30,000+ books across three floors! At the same time, I’ve been to library book sales with just a few tables of books in a small room.

Most of these sales have a section for collectible books, which are much more expensive. Bigger sales tend to have tons of children’s books, which is great for parents and teachers. Some sales also offer things like games, puzzles, and DVDs.

Plan ahead.

These book sales can be surprisingly intense. Book re-sellers attend and can get competitive about perusing the shelves for profitable titles. They also often bring large storage bins with them, which can make navigating the space hard, especially if there are a lot of shoppers. It’s still “worth it,” though!

You can absolutely attend without a plan and just enjoy the experience! But, over time, I’ve found that a plan works best for me.

I like to plan several things ahead of time. First, I always bring a list of titles I am looking for. I can get overwhelmed really fast once I get into a big book sale, so it’s always a help. Sometimes, I even take pictures of my bookshelves so I can double-check if I already have a title when I’m in the sale.

Then, I like to choose my top priorities. Recently, I was trying to finish my collection of vintage American Girl books, so that was my top priority. I also like to try to check the Stephen King shelf early, as those books tend to go fast.

If I’m already familiar with the sale, I think about the first three places I will check for my top priorities. If not, I will look for signs in those sections as soon as I get there, or I will ask for help.

You can also ask the library staff questions ahead of time. I like to know any specific rules. For example, my library’s sale doesn’t allow rolling carts, and you won’t be able to put your bag on the floor while you shop. If you fill a bag and it’s too heavy to carry, you have to place it in a special section. This helps traffic flow much better.

You should definitely bring some bags with you. I usually bring a handful of sturdy reusable grocery bags. Consider bringing cash as well. I’ve never been to a “cash only” sale, but I’ve skipped the line and checked out a lot faster at the registers designated for cash.

You should also consider what time to arrive. I try to arrive at least one half of an hour early. If it’s a big sale, the line to get in when it starts can get really long! If you can’t do that or don’t want to, I still definitely recommend shopping within the first few hours of a sale. They can get really picked over after that.

Shop til you drop.

Sometimes I look at the line of people waiting to get into a sale and wonder whether I’ll ever find anything that I’m looking for. But, I always find a lot of books on my wish list! There truly is something for everyone to be found, so don’t get too overwhelmed, and remember to have fun.

Sale prices differ, but I’ve generally found bigger book sales to be $2 per book on the first day, $1 per book on the second day, and $5 to fill a plastic bag on the third day.

One of my favorite thrills in life is the excitement of picking any book I want and buying it without giving it a second thought. I also love to see a book I know someone else will love and grab it.

I tend to do a few loops before I check out. After the first hour, the crowd dwindles down a lot, and it’s easier to see things you may have missed the first time around.

If it’s my local library, I may return the next day for things like classics, which don’t sell as fast, or popular books, where there were tons of copies available on the first day. This way, I get 50% off!

One last thing I’d like to note is that if I end up buying a book I don’t need or want (it happens… I’ve mistakenly grabbed duplicates, etc.), I just donate it back to the library for their next sale. These sales are meant to benefit the library after all!


Library book sales are one of the best ways to buy books cheaply. But, they can get crowded and overwhelming, so plan ahead and be prepared with things like your wish list and reusable bags. At the same time, rest assured that you will find something (or many things) to suit you, so enjoy the fun, frugal experience!

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