Do you love books? So do I. I hate clutter, and I am a frequent visitor of the drive-thru Goodwill, dumping off things that no longer bring me joy or to be honest, things that make me say swear words. (Lego, help me, if I could donate every last Lego without a guilty conscious, I would do it.) However– because books are so hard for me to part with, 5 years ago I started to host Book Swaps with my friends to reduce the heartbreak. Nothing makes me happier than handing a book I love over to one of my girlfriends. While digital reading became very popular in recent years, and some of my friends still use Kindles instead of paper, I have found that more and more people are going back to the tactile version of paper books. That’s key to a good Swap, people who read on paper versus devices!
I’ve made Book Swaps a little more complicated than they need to be, but after several go’s at this, here are my top suggestions to hosting an easy, fun, rewarding Swap.
• Over-invite. I usually invite 40 people to my Swaps, and about 5-8 show up. That’s normal and I refuse to think it’s because the remainder don’t like me. Summer is a fun time to host a Swap because you can do it outside, but attendance has been better for me when I have hosted in the Winter. You can encourage your guests to invite a friend as well, that will often result in a few extra swappers.
•Set a limit for how many books each guest can bring. I learned the hard way. I once had someone bring 50 books to a Swap. It’s too much to sort through. My favorite number of books brought to the Swap is 5-8 per person. Which leads me to…….
•Be clear as freshly Norwex cleaned glass about quality books. What do I mean by this? If it’s a book that smells like nasty basement mold, if it’s a book that your gut says nobody will want, if it’s What to Expect When You Are Expecting, DO NOT BRING IT. I have to say this, and I have to say it to my guests every time. The better the books, the better the Swap.
•If you are including kids in this Swap, set the same rules as above.
•Provide tables, benches, and even laundry baskets for people to display or set the books on. With 10 attendees you do not typically need to go to the work of sorting by genre. Lay them out. Easy!
•If Kids are at your Swap, separate the books into Picture Books and Young Adult.
•Set a 2 hour span for the Swap. I like to start at 6pm, Swap at 7pm, and wrap things up by 8pm. Adjust to a time that works for you, but starting the actual picking process one hour after start time allows for late arrivers who often have issues with timeliness but good books you might want. (Kidding but not kidding.)
•So how does the actual Swap work without Moms throwing elbows and girl-fighting over the best book at the Swap? I just ask my friends to stay classy, that generally works. My only rules for adults is that everyone can pick one book the first go-around, and after everyone has selected their first book, they are then welcome to choose a second and third. I have found most women will be thrilled to go home with 2-3 books max.
•If you are hosting a Kid Swap, I suggest one of two methods: have all the kids draw a number from a basket and go in 1-2-3 order. Line up all the kids, (for some reason this line order seems more fair for kids.) Same rules apply. Kid #1 gets to pick 1 book, she goes to the back of the line. Kid #2 goes, picks 1 book, etc. After they have all gone through the line, send them through again. Or, line them up youngest to oldest and send them through the line.
•Keep your food simple. Ask everyone to bring a bite to eat, or skip food all together and just serve drinks. Kids are happy with popcorn and popsicles. Food doesn’t ever need to be the center of any of these types of events, so even if you aren’t a good cook, don’t let that stop you from hosting any event!
• You will have leftover books, and this is when you can gather them up and donate them. Ask someone who attends to take on this responsibility, as a host I really appreciate this.
•Keep it simple, have fun, and spread the joy of reading! Reuse books and enjoy time with other friends who love books.
If you host a Book Swap, I would love to see photos and hear from you