Thursday, April 21, 2011

14 ways to build a classroom library without ever paying full price for a book

How's that for a word-y, yet descriptive title?

I've been collecting books for about 2 years now, despite having only graduated in December. It was advice given to me by a teacher during my junior year of college and I'm glad I took it. Even though I have yet to get my own classroom, I have over 300 titles to add to it whenever that day comes. I plan on doing more shopping this summer, so that number will probably grow before the fall.

Setting up a classroom library is not cheap however, and I think most teachers these days find themselves funding their own libraries (which is why my teacher suggested "start now" to ease the financial pain). There are many ways to do it however, without spending an arm and a leg and getting more books for you buck. Here are some of the ways I've collected books (along with some I haven't used yet, but have known other teachers to have success with).

  • Ask for donations If you have family and friends with children, ask if they would be willing to donated books they no longer want to your classroom. Unless they are like my mother (who is hoarding all of our childhood books for the grandkids who are still years off), then this is a great way to gather up a bunch of childhood favorites for $0.
  • Look into local book banks If you live in a major city (I live in Baltimore), see if they have any sort of book bank. We have one in Baltimore that gives away free books to anyone who shows up at their door. I've found copies of books that have never been read, along with large collections (I have many of the Junie B. Jones books thanks to a girl named Eva who donated her collection) and paid nothing for them. In return however, I have donated my time to help organize and shelve incoming donations. It's a win-win because as I shelve I get to go through all the books and pick out what I want to keep.
  • Yard sales If you can't seem to get books for free, this is my #1 way to build up a library on the cheap. I use Craigslist to plot my route, looking for sales advertising children's items. I usually find a few more along the way. Church or neighborhood flea markets are a great way to hit a lot of people at once. Children's books aren't a top yard sale seller, so most people are happy to see them go. It also means that you don't need to be up at the crack of dawn, the closer you get to noon, when most people are getting ready to close up shop, the better deals you can get because people don't want to pack it back up. If you let people know you are a teacher, many are willing to let huge stacks go for under $5. I went out one day last summer with $40 and came back with 125 books, the majority like new. 
  • Library Sales Some libraries hold sales a few times a year to help clear out any books that have been removed from their shelves. My local library system does not do this, but check and see if yours does.
  • Large Scale Used Book Sales If you have the patience to dig through piles of books, this is a good way to hunt through loads of books in once place. Many times these sales will benefit a cause, so it's sort of a two for one deal. 
  • I have yet to purchase anything from them, however, the prices seem great, you can't beat free shipping, and it's a good way to add specific titles to your library since it's not as hit and miss like yard sales and used books sales might be. This is how my library sells all their unwanted books and you can search by zip code so that your sales benefit locations near you.
  • Look for book lots, and start bidding. Watch out for shipping however, and remember to factor that into your costs. Many times I'll spot a good deal, only to see that the shipping costs no longer make it a good deal.
  • Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. I haven't done too much book hunting at these locations, but I have seen books there, and just like at yardsales, they aren't something that moves fast. Only difference is you can't negotiate price.
  • I just looked and there currently are over 9,000 children's books for under $5, many which are popular titles. Shipping is always $2.95 (sometimes less), so you'll never spend an arm and a leg on shipping there.
  • Good deals on some popular books titles. Shipping is more than Overstocks, but still not enough to not make it a good deal. *** Note that the site contains adult media, so I would not recommend allowing children to browse it freely.***
  • Used book stores I tend to find that this is too pricey of a way to add a large volume of books, but it's still a good option to consider.
  • Scholastic Warehouse Sales I attended one last May and I would say it's worth the trip to add new and popular titles to your library. You can also sign up to volunteer (I bagged books at checkout) and you get reimbursed $10 of books an hour. I got $170 worth of books for $70, but had a $50 voucher from my volunteer hours, so I only paid $30. Can't beat that for over 30 brand new books. And it was a lot of fun to chat with both the fellow teacher volunteers, the teachers coming through checkout, as well as the many homeschool parents who showed up.
  • Discount Chain Stores Places like MarshallsT.J.Maxx, and Ross will sometimes carry children's books. Next time your out shopping, check in the children's section and see what they have.
  • My family buys a ton from Amazon, and you can sometimes find good deals on popular (and not so popular) titles. You'll probably want to avoid buying a lot from private vendors, as shipping will add up quick, and ignore the penny books, as you'll still get charged $7+ for shipping on each book. We have an Amazon Prime membership, so I usually just stick to books that will ship for free that way.
There are a few things that I have learned to keep in mind while shopping for books:
  • Avoid buying really popular titles/series from anywhere but yard sales (think Magic Treehouse, Junie B. Jones, Bernstein Bears, etc.), as they are really easy to find there, and much cheaper than say buying at a used book store or on, etc.
  • No matter how good of a deal, avoid wasting your money on titles/series that may be outdated. You can find a healthy serving of Lizzie McGuire and Mary Kate and Ashley books at yard sales, however, most of your students will have never seen those shows and they won't have the same appeal they did even 5 years ago.
  • On the contrary, snag books that will be relevant to your kids today, if the price is right. I found a bunch of High School Musical and Hannah Montana books one time for a $1 each. I was working in a 3rd grade classroom one time and they couldn't wait to get their hands on them, even the reluctant readers.
  • Check copyright dates in nonfiction books. It's usually fairly obvious by the photos they contain how old they are, and for certain topics, the information is good forever, but for many topics, it's changing quickly, and a book that is 10 years old will contain a lot of outdated information.
How are you building your library? What's the best deal you've ever found?


Sunny said...

I send Scholastic Book orders home and use the points we earn from student purchases to add to my library. Currently I have 700 books in my library, with 65 added this year. I think I paid about $15 total for those 65 books since many were free from scholastic promotions and/or bonus points.

Kathleen said...

I just did my library post here-

I got most of mine from thrift stores- for $0.25-$0.50 a book (salvation army and our local school district PTO shop). I also spread it out over time and stop in frequently to scan the kids book shelves. Buying even 3-4 books at a time added up to a nice collection over the year. Another idea (where I got my new books) is to check your state education testing site- I went and took 6 trial tests that are going to be released soon and they paid me in $50 penguin books dollars. I did have to pay for shipping, but it wasn't bad for all those new books. Good luck with your job hunt!