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Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Resource Guide Collection

Friends of Libraries: Book Sales

Information, resources, and advice for library friends groups in Massachusetts.


The content in this guide is informational only. The inclusion of any links or services is not an endorsement. MBLC makes no recommendations on products and services. The quotes are from Friends of Libraries in Massachusetts based on their experiences. 

Book Sale Prices

Curious how other towns price their materials? Check out this helpful list.

Dealing with Dealers

Used book dealers can be some of your best book sale customers! Sometimes managing the rush can get a little overwhelming. Here are some ideas, compiled from suggestions made by friends members, that may help.

  • Consider charging dealers a "business" membership fee to the friends group (for example: $25/year). That way, they can attend the preview sale and you benefit with more membership income.

  • One library that has a business membership also gives out a sticker to the dealers at preview sales. "We give them a sticker that they need to place on their scanner or shirt that says New Business Member. I Support Libraries! This does two things: it identifies quickly that they have paid the business membership, and the other shoppers feel better knowing they paid."

  • Develop a list of rules for ALL customers. This helps things run smoothly but also treats everyone fairly and with respect. Example rules may include: All sales are final, no hoarding (look at one book, keep or set down), don’t argue with volunteers, etc. Develop rules that work with the way you run your particular sale.
    Example of Book Store Code of Conduct from Lexington - Cary Memorial Library 

From the Friends Discussion list: 

How do you handle book dealers at friends of the library book sales?

  • We charge our dealers $25 to enter our sale.  We found that some can be absolutely wonderful, and we have made friends of them. And they are good customers. Some can be unruly, and we have had to lay down the law.
  • We charge them $40.   They won’t blink - cost of doing business. 
  • Our book sales typically run over three days: Friday night is Members’ Night, and then Saturday and Sunday are open to the general public. We prohibit scanners on Friday nights, because they are disruptive. Our sales get very crowded on opening nights.  Sure, we want dealers to come and purchase a lot of books. But we also want to provide a pleasant shopping experience for our customers.  We then allow scanners on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Dealers must pay to be members and can therefore have access to our sale during “Members Only” hours.   We do not allow scanners at our books sales, in that some dealers can be disruptive.  We found them hoarding and covering boxes of books under the tables, stacking them while scanning, and leaving them for us to return to the proper topic areas. We also did this to be considerate of those members/general public, who are not dealers and do not use scanners, who expressed concern that they were not able to get access to many of the books due to the dealers.

    We still have some disruptions but find people are responsive when we remind them. Outside of our sale room, we provide tables/chairs for anyone wishing to sort through their books before finalizing their purchases.

    We do allow scanners and other electronic devices to be used at our ongoing bookstore and children’s cart. Both are stocked with our best donated books-- meaning they are in good to excellent condition.

    We have a set of “rules of conduct” that are shared and read before the doors to the sale are open. They include things like no hoarding, general courtesy, and no electronics or scanners allowed. If anyone is disruptive, we have found that they tend to respond to reminders.
  • My thinking is, if the dealers are willing to pay our price, at least we are getting the amount we asked for. I've only seen one person with some kind of scanner. Our sales are well supported by two used bookstore owners here on the Cape who shop with us. We even cut them deals sometimes because honestly, they will take what we will probably sell to our average customer. 
  • We have the book dealers pay to be a member before entering on member preview day. We now set up tables outside the back door under a canopy (our library is small and there is no space inside to do this) for the book dealers to collect and sort their books. We have found that having a separate place for them to pile their books makes things go more smoothly.
  • We require dealers join the Friends at a special book dealers’ rate of $25 if they wanted to come to the Members Only Sale. 
  • We offer special members-only hours on Friday night. Everyone, including dealers, had to pay dues to take advantage of Friday night. On Saturday, the sale was open to everyone, whether they'd paid dues or not.
  • This year we added a "Book Dealer Friend" category. They pay the same $25 dues as our basic Friend level (senior citizens pay $10; you can also donate more $). We added the Book Dealer category because, yes, some can be disruptive and rude...while others are wonderful. We'll see if some of the dealers better understand that we aren't just charging them an entry fee at the door.

Credit Card Payments

Here are some of the current options for processing credit card payments.

Fees vary and availability to nonprofit groups vary. It is important to practice good cyber hygiene and develop protocols around who has access to accounts.

What Massachusetts Friends say about payment processing options:

  • We use Zettle! It’s very easy to use and connects to your PayPal account. It takes all major credit cards, Venmo, and apple pay as well.
  • We use a PayPal reader and it is still working fine.
  • Several friends groups use a Square device, which is linked to a PayPal account, and report being pretty happy with it.
  • We use a Square device, which is hooked up to a mini-iPad that stays at the circulation desk when we’re not actively using it. We sell a fair amount of merchandise year-round (shirts, tote bags, hats, etc) from lobby tables and are very grateful to the staff, all of whom wanted to learn how to use it. We’re happy with how it works at this point.
  • We added Venmo to the payment options at our most recent book sale. Venmo requires no equipment and was a big hit, especially with our younger book buyers. Best of all, the administrative fee is lower than PayPal and credit card charges according to our treasurer. The library has added our Venmo QR code to all program posters & flyers and that's generating donations to the Friends.
  • We use Square at our three large book sales each year so we purchased iPad holders and credit card readers for each of our cashier stations. Our customers love having the convenience. The iPads belong to the library, pop right into the holder, and have the app already loaded. We've been using this system for 4 or 5 years now. It has increased our sales and the fees are low compared to what we are earning. We usually take in about $8000 per sale just in CC sales. Well worth it.
  • Based on the input from other Friends groups, we recently updated our card reader to Zettle.  This is a PayPal product that accepts major cards, contactless, QR code and mobile payments, including Samsung Pay, Google Pay, and Apple Pay.  We plan on using it at our upcoming book sale.
  • The Friends of the Eastham Library offers membership renewal by PayPal or if at a book sale or in the library, members can join or renew using a credit card with our Square device. We primarily got the Square for merchandise and book sales.
  • We promote it in our membership renewal letter, but are always surprised how few use PayPal. 
  • We use Zettle, just the basic reader. I didn’t spring the extra $50 for the docking station and I can’t say I miss it. The reader is small, portable and handy and I feel like the docking station would take away from the maneuverability. My volunteers and I all love it and find it very easy to set up and use. Zettle does not charge an extra fee on top of the PayPal fee. 

What to do with leftover books?

There are a number of organizations that will work with libraries to collect unsold/unwanted items. Some organizations will make arrangements to pick up books from your library! Here are a few that other Massachusetts libraries have used:

What Massachusetts Friends say about book removal services:

Discover Books

  • I am a big fan of Discover Books and have talked to the regional marketing manager Gary Parenteau.  He told me he will send a truck to pick up any books we do not want to keep (weeding) and leftover book sale books and we have talked about getting a book bin.  He is very easy to talk to and you can visit the warehouse.  
  • Gary Parenteau is easy to work with and very responsive. Most residents make the Friends of the Library their first stop for donated books. But our Discover Books bins at the Eastham Transfer station allow anyone to drop off and know they are not entering the waste stream, but will at the very least be vetted for possible secondary market sale, or sorted for a school, rural area, prison library, etc.    During Covid, Discover helped a student at Mass Maritime Academy redo the library on their training ship!

  • We have 2 Discovery Book bins, but not at our library.  They are in a parking lot behind the Town Offices.  The Friends of the Library hold their book donations and book sales across the street from the library in another Town building and would love one there for their purposes, but we are nervous about people putting actual library books in there rather than just donations, the same if it was at the library.  Being a small town, we have not set up a regular pick up.  We also notify them to pick up books after the book sale right at the building where we hold it. 

Bay State Book Company

  • Bay State reliably empties the bins once a week.  At the end of each quarter, we receive a report and revenue from Bay State for the books they retrieved from the bins.  The bins are on the property of a shopping center and two gas stations.  We like Bay State Company's "zero books into the landfill" policy.  Those books that are not sell-able on-line go to school teachers, charities, prison libraries, and other organizations.  Those that are not in good enough condition for these organizations are sold into bulk paper.  In short, we are glad that none of our donated books end up being thrown away. 
  • We have two bins, one in the parking lot behind the Library and one at the Stop & Shop parking lot on Rte 3A. We would second everything Cathy says. Larry’s staff empty the bins on a regular basis, and we have not had any difficulty with books left outside or damage to the bins.
  • We would highly recommend this company. They pick up books on a regular schedule, so the books aren’t flooding the parking lot; they are receptive and provide us with a Quarterly statement and funds.