Library book sale goes virtual

"I’m really concerned for our community, and I think that we need to be thinking outside the box and finding ways to keep people engaged," said Sheila DeChantal, Friends of the Brainerd Public Library Board president.

Volunteer Gayle Kub sorts through books donated to the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library for its annual book sales Tuesday, Nov. 24, at the Westgate Mall. This year's sale is virtual, with customers requesting books online and picking them up. Theresa Bourke / Staff Writer

It’s usually a mad rush to find coveted items when the doors open for the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library semi-annual book sale.

Each spring and fall, book lovers flock to the Westgate Mall to browse through stacks and stacks of reading materials in hopes of finding great deals, which are abundant at just 50 cents and 25 cents for most books.

But the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds that inevitably gather aren’t quite 2020-approved with the rapid spread of COVID-19, and the group still has piles and piles of donated books in need of a new shelf.

“It’s probably an understatement to say there’s 10,000 books there right now,” said Sheila DeChantal, Friends of the Brainerd Public Library Board president.

The high volume of supplies increasing since the last sale more than a year ago, and the desire to do something fun for the community led to the idea of an online book sale.


“People need something to look forward to. They need something to engage in so we don’t get too much in our heads about the fate of the world right now and all that,” DeChantal said. “Now, obviously books have always been a wonderful escape for many reasons, and we have to get them in people’s hands and get people talking about whatever they’re going to talk about — books or games or whatever.”

Multitudes of books, movies and music in all sorts of genres and formats are still available at the same unbeatable prices. The method of collection, however, is different.

Those who want books can visit the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library website at and request any specific titles they’re looking for. The website lists several popular authors — like Stephen King, Nicholas Sparks, Danielle Steele, James Patterson and others — that are usually plentiful among the donated books. Lesser known authors or more obscure books can also be requested, though they may not be available or may take longer to hunt down among the thousands of materials.

For those without specific titles in mind, they can choose from one of several book bundles. Each $5 bundle will contain at least eight books in a specific genre — like mystery, romance, sci-fi or western. Customers can specify some of their tastes, if they choose, and a volunteer will put together a surprise bundle. More adventurous readers can go for an experience bundle with books in a variety of genres chosen by volunteers. Non-fiction bundles on various topics are available as well.

“It’s just hoping our community just loves their library, and they're open to reading something that maybe wasn't on their radar,” DeChantal said.

Children’s bundles are available for the same $5 price and will include 12-15 books. Purchased separately, children’s books remain priced at 25 cents.

“We’ve always kind of had a heart for the kids, and we’ve never wanted to outprice,” DeChantal said. “... We always want to make sure we’re doing whatever we can to get books in kids’ hands.”

Most adult books are 50 cents apiece, with premium books published within the last five years priced from $1.25-$5.25.


Books and bundles can be requested on the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library website, and donations of gently used books can be dropped off 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays at the Westgate Mall. The door is located on the front of the mall near the JoAnn Fabrics service door. Visitors can ring a buzzer upon arrival, and a volunteer will respond. To arrange drop-offs at another time, or for further questions, email .

Orders may take up to two weeks to fill.

Theresa Tangeman organizes children's books Tuesday, Nov. 24, for the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library book sale. This year's sale is virtual, and customers can pick up their online orders at the Westgate Mall. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

The twice-yearly in-person book sales usually raise about $7,000-$8,000, with all proceeds going back to programming at the library, like children’s activities or adult computer classes.

With the pandemonium of the past year and the normal difficulties winter always brings for some, DeChantal hopes the book sale will be a welcome reprieve.

“This is a hard time of year for a lot of people anyways,” she said. “Take COVID out of the picture, people deal with seasonal depression. There’s a lot of people that struggle with not getting out like you can spring through fall. And then you put it all on top of the pressure of the holidays and all the stuff that weighs people anyways — a lot of people. I’m really concerned for our community, and I think that we need to be thinking outside the box and finding ways to keep people engaged.”

Other virtual Friends of the Brainerd Public Library events include Brown Bag Authors on Facebook Live and the Books Burgers and Brews book club via Zoom. For more information, visit the group’s website or Facebook page.


Brainerd Public Library

Contactless curbside pickup is available for Brainerd Public Library patrons while doors are closed to the public. Those interested in checking out books and DVDs can order through the library’s online catalog at or call the library at 218-829-5574.

“We’ve always been a good cure for cabin fever,” branch manager Jenny Hill said. “But then also with so many kids working with virtual learning, the library hopefully can provide more recreational reading — a break from school and some of that.”

While computer access is not available with the library closed, free Wi-Fi hotspots are available to check out for two weeks at a time. The Verizon devices are prepaid by the library through coronavirus relief funds awarded to the Kitchigami Regional Library system.

Library staff plan to begin virtual Legacy programming in January.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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