Lessons From An Online Book Sale

Friends Book Sale in 2019

2020 has brought many challenges to so many – in so many ways. Non Profits are no different. With the inability to have our book sales as we normally do twice a year, not only do we not have the income that the book sales usually make, we do not have an outlet to put books in our communities hands. With MANY books being donated weekly by our generous community, and no sale in over a year, as many non profits are doing, we had to think outside the box.

The Friends of The Brainerd Public Library book sale moved online in late October. This was due to a dedicated team of Volunteers who set up the sale just like you would if we were opening the doors to a regular sale. They categorized the donated books and we set up the website to offer people a chance to go on line and purchase a bundle of their favorite genre… OR… choose an Experience bundle that would be a mix of great reads to try. You could also message the Book Sale Team and let them know if you were looking for specific titles, and they would communicate back; and if they had it, they set up a pick up time and customers could pay at the door. It’s like curbside pick up…. for books.

My part of all of this is the website and really why I am writing this today. I have been volunteering at the book sales for about 12 years now. I love talking to people about books, recommending books and seeing what they can recommend to me. In all the years of doing this, I found that this online sale has a few things happening that I did not anticipate – but I certainly appreciate.

Volunteers filling book orders that have come in through packing lists and online ordering
  1. It is a more personal experience. You see the customer place their order and they share with you authors they like, and genres they like. Someone from the book sale team takes their request and fills their order based on what they have said – like a personal shopper.
  2. You see new trends. When orders come in and customers are choosing their books, you really get to see what people are looking for. In turn this helps our Book Sale Team know what is popular when the donations come in. Non Fiction, for instance, has had a much bigger request then I thought it would.
  3. Teachable moments. Recently we had an order come in requesting Cozy Mysteries. If I see an order come in where someone requests a specific author or something like this, I will add a little note to it to assist the team filling the order in where to find the books. For this particular request, I made a note for the team saying they probably already knew this but just in case, I explained what a cozy mystery was (Sconed to Death!) as well as a few of the popular Cozy Mystery Authors. Later, one of the Book Sale Chairs told me that they had a fun time finding those books and had a fun discussion and learning what a Cozy Mystery was. 😀
  4. Phone calls for specific books. We now have a master list of people who have shared what they are looking for. There is the guy who will take all Bibles donated. There is the lady who will take any crochet books. And of course thanks to Queen’s Gambit, there is a run on anything Chess.

When the in person sale is happening, it is so crazy busy you don’t really have the time to spend with one person as they choose their books. You might wave to someone or help for a couple minutes, and then you are flying off to assist the next person. As in many things, this is a slow down and more focused process that thanks to the dedicated Volunteers, is working.

I am sure the Book Team could share a lot more cool stories – these are just mine from the comfy chair at my house and watching the orders come in.
For those of you who live elsewhere, what is your Library or Friends Group doing at this time? I would love to hear other ideas!

Oh and don’t forget to submit your First Book of the Year!

For those that do not know, I am the President of the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library. I do this because I have always had a love for books and connecting people to books they will enjoy. To me, the best gift is sharing a book you love with someone else. It is like you gave them keys to another world where they may be living in the marsh of North Carolina, or saving a futuristic world, or even a young boy riding a train for the first time to a school of magic.

Be well.


12 thoughts on “Lessons From An Online Book Sale

  1. Sheila

    I just love your commentary! Always a breath of fresh air and a kindness that comes from the heart. I can’t believe the year we’ve had and still you manage to say something uplifting!

    Merry Christmas my friend from across the ocean , who I’ve never met but who I feel I really know!

    Love Lizanne

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. This was a great post. Yes, our library friends group has not been able to have the May book sale and I suspect because in person library visits is by appt. only that not much donating is happening. One nice thing I noticed is that they placed a large book cart near entrance and people place books, dvds and audios they don’t want there and people can then take for free. It made me feel good to see that happen. I do curbside (1-2x a week) and have only been in library once since mid-March.

  3. I’m finishing my 2 year term as Friends of the Solon Library President and this has been an interesting year. I applaud your ability to be able to get all of the books online – that is an amazing accomplishment!!! Right now we don’t even have access to our books and we’re not allowed in the library. I’m running a pseudo sale from my garage on our Facebook page and that’s about all I can handle 🙂

  4. So interesting to see the comparison between the in person and the online experience. Sound like both are a lot of fun but I can see how this would be really interesting as well!

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