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How and Why You Should Organize a Community Book Swap Where You Live

January 31, 2019 1 Comment
*This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.*

Community building, minimizing waste and free stuff – does it get any better than that?! A community book swap is such a fun event to attend, and so easy to organize.

My city has a monthly book swap that used to be organized by my friend, and I offered to take over after she had been organizing for a year. I was surprised by how effortless it was to pull together, so I’ve written down everything you need to know about hosting your own book swap, and why you should go for it

🌿 The green side of hosting a used book swap: no wasting resources recreating items we already have, and getting more mileage out of an item before it ends up in a landfill.


The fun side: community, coffee and new friends.

1. Location / Find a local spot to host. The best locations are local (think local coffee shop over Panera) and sell food or drinks. I message our venue through Facebook, but you can call or just stop in and ask. If you’re drafting a message online, you can say something like this:

Hi! My name is [ name ], and I’m wondering if I could use your venue to host a free used book swap. The book swap is an opportunity for community members to trade the books they’ve already read in for something new. Attendees bring one or more used books, and then can take as many books as they’d like. We’d love to host at [ location name ] because it’s a great local spot and then attendees can also [ buy coffee, enjoy your great food menu, etc ]. The event is scheduled for [ date ] and we’re expecting about [ X ] people. Is it possible for you to confirm today or tomorrow if this is possible? Thank you and hope to see you soon! [ name and phone number

If they say yes, then you can also send them a link to the Facebook event and invite them to share in online. This event is good for the business too because it brings people into their establishment. This is the message I send a few days before the event:

Hello again! I have a question, I’m not sure if this fits into your social media marketing but would you be interested in sharing the Book Swap event on your Facebook page? It’s open to everyone in the community,  just wanted to mention it! Looking forward to seeing you on [ Sunday ] 🙂 

2. Tips for attendance / The book swap in my city happens every month, and I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that sometimes attendance will be higher and lower than expected, and it’s nothing to feel bad about.

Maximize community groups that are already active. Does your town have any groups, in real life or on Facebook? Maybe neighborhood groups, university groups, free stuff groups, local hobby groups, church groups, Mothers Of Preschoolers (MOPS), etc? Invite them to attend and invite their community to the event. Groups or organizations where you live are great because they’re already invested in the community and have an audience.

You don’t have to be nervous inviting people you don’t know: you’re not asking them to give money, sign up for something or do you a favor. If they don’t share, don’t feel bad; just keep spreading the word. 

3. The day of the swap / Once you have the location details set in place, you just need to spread the word and show up. The day of the swap, your role as the host is simple:

  • Arriving / Show up early, maybe 20 minutes before the event. I like to chat with the barista, hostess, whoever will be the first point of contact for people coming in.
  • What to bring / If you’ve had swaps before, bring the leftover books from the prior events and put them out. I usually have 2-3 bags of books left over from the prior swap. It’s nice to set the books upright, like in a library. You can do this with cheap bookends or you can find another way. 
  • Organization / The books can be organized or left out randomly. I opt to not organize them in any specific way for two reasons. It takes constant monitoring to put all the books where they’re supposed to be. It also encourages more browsing to put everything in together. The one exception for this is children’s books: I put all kids books aside so if anyone brings a whipper snapper, they’ll be less bored with a kids section. 
  • Greeting / It’s nice for someone to welcome people at the event, which you can do yourself or ask a friend to help you be a greeter. Just say welcome when people enter and explain how it works. 

4. Communication / In my city we have a Facebook group where we all stay connected. The swap is usually one of the last weekends in the month, and a week in advance I’ll put out a scheduling poll and offer a time slot on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Sunday always wins by a landslide, but I like to offer people the opportunity to vote.

After the poll has been alive for half a day or a 24 hours, I’ll schedule the event for the winning time. I reach out to the venue first to confirm. I always host at the same location, but for your first time at a new venue you may want to leave extra time to finalize details.

Make the Facebook event and start sharing it! I always keep the details consistent for every event.

It’s time for another book-swap, our event for book lovers from all walks of life!

As usual, the rules below:

– All genres are welcome

– No moldy books

– Bring as many books as you like, take as many books as you like!

– All are welcome 🙂

We will be upstairs at [ venue name ], just come right on up the steps and you’ll see us!

You can make up your own rules and welcome message, just make it clear that this is a free event an open to everyone

5. How to make it a regular event / Hosting regularly is a fantastic way to build up attendance and momentum. I’ve chosen a monthly frequency because it gives attendees time to read the books they’ve just gotten. 

Don’t stress about the big commitment of taking of a reoccurring event. You can stop at any time, or ask someone to co-host (you can alternate swaps) or just ask someone to become the next organizer. I took over organizing from a friend, and whenever I’m ready for a break I’ll ask someone else to help. Having a Facebook group is really valuable for this – the group of attendees is always in the same place and the admin can change as needed.

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If I’m being honest, the hardest part is transporting the books. That’s it! I don’t have a car so I bike everywhere, and it’s a bit of a task to transport things on a bike. Otherwise putting this event together monthly is painless.

All of the organizing takes less than one hour to do (scheduling poll, messaging the venue, making the Facebook event, sharing the Facebook event in other Facebook community groups, re-sharing the weekend of the swap).

Enjoy! I love the book swap in my city. It’s such an easy event to put on, and people enjoy it so much. 

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