Columbia Star

1963        Celebrating 60 Years      2023

Quarterly book sale—a labor of love

Arrive early for the best selection of books and other materials at the Richland Library Friends and Foundation book sale.

Arrive early for the best selection of books and other materials at the Richland Library Friends and Foundation book sale.

In all the years I’ve been going to the Richland Library Friends and Foundation book sale, there have been numerous times when I’ve found and bought books, the discovery of which struck me as being odd coincidences or mysterious instances of unexplainable happenstance.

For example, right after returning from a group tour of South Carolina Revolutionary War sites led by Dr. Walter Edgar, the emeritus professor of history at USC, I found an autographed first-edition copy of Edgar’s Partisans & Redcoats, his 2001 history of fighting during the Revolution in the Carolinas.

Right after seeing the Normandy World War II invasion beaches, I happened upon a copy of Omaha Beach, D-Day, June 6, 1944, by historian Joseph Balkoski.

And following assurances by a friend that personal items I had lost in an apartment fire “would come back to me” (a claim I didn’t believe at the time) several replacement copies of volumes destroyed in the blaze turned up at the sale.

What accounts for being able to buy autographed first editions of books at the sale for prices ranging from $2 to $3?

It turns out the sale is a labor of love for book lovers of all stripes— whether they’re donating books to be sold, are volunteers who process and shelve the books and then work the sales, or are the patrons who become addicted to the quarterly adventure in book buying.

The sale, held in January, April, July, and October at the library’s operations center at 130 Lancewood Road near Dutch Square, is the work of The Richland Library Friends and Foundation, a separate 501(c)(3) support organization of the library whose volunteers raise funds for library programs and services beyond what county appropriations will pay for.

Tina Gills, the library’s development director, says none of the books or other materials sold at the sale come from the library’s collections. All the items are donated by individuals who can take a tax-write off on their donation if they so choose.

Thank the Junior League of Columbia, in part, for the sale. In 1975, it created the Richland Library Friends as its bicentennial project and gift to Columbia, and in 1977, the Friends started the sale. By 2017 the Friends merged with the Richland Library Foundation to form one organization.

The book sale is a particularly effective fundraiser for the library. The most recent sale in July attended by some 1,600 people raised nearly $18,000, meaning that over a year’s time, some $72,000 can flow into the foundation’s coffers to help fund projects like the library’s Summer Learning Challenge.

The 50 or so people registered with the Richland Library Friends and Foundation who work on the sale year-round by sorting the donated materials, pricing them, and putting them on the shelves are “probably the largest group of volunteers we’ve ever had and do about 5,000 hours of work a year,” said Katy Watkins, the library’s volunteer coordinator.

The sale’s large variety of materials and their subject matter is a function of the sale’s richly diversified donor base—people living in the greater Columbia metropolitan area— and the ease of the donor process. Books and other materials can be dropped off at any Richland Library branch, though the library asks donors to bring especially large numbers of books to the main library on Assembly Street downtown.

The next book sale will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, October 26. For information, call 803-929- 3436 or visit

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