Library Book Sale

The National Library Board’s first centralised Library Book Sale was held at the Suntec City Entertainment Centre in 19981 in conjunction with the Great Singapore Sale.2 Since then, the book sale has been taking place almost every year either at the Singapore Expo in Changi or the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre. The sale is usually a two-day event where used library books are sold cheaply.3 The Library Book Sale has met with great success, drawing huge crowds.4
Before the first centralised Library Book Sale in 1998, library book sales were held at individual libraries. The National Library, which used to be located on Stamford Road, held its book sale at the staff carpark area of its former premises. The purpose of these book sales was to clear old and worn-out books in order to make space for new ones. The money raised was used to fund library operations and to buy new books.5 Due to the huge demand for used books, it was decided to centralise these ad-hoc book sales to give book lovers a wider choice of books to purchase. The National Library Board saw the event as a meaningful way to promote reading, literacy and lifelong learning as well as to recycle and extend the lifespan of books. Hence the first centralised book sale was held in 1998 at the Suntec City Entertainment Centre, where 120,000 books were put up for sale.6

The book sale has been held almost annually since 1998, usually at the Singapore Expo in Changi and sometimes at the Suntec City Convention and Exhibition Centre.7 About 300,000 books and magazines are put up for sale each year, though the actual numbers vary from year to year, depending on the number of books weeded from the individual libraries. The average shelf life of a book at the sale is at least four years. The materials are arranged by language, age group, and fiction or non-fiction. Books are sold for S$1 to $S2, and magazines for S$5 per pack of 10 or 20 issues.8 The Library Book Sale has received overwhelming response from the public and long queues usually form before the sale opens.9 Since its launch in 1998, the National Library Board has also carried out a pre-event charity book donation.10


Anasuya Balamurugan

1. “Library Sale Attracts a Crowd,” Straits Times, 19 July 1998, 31. (From NewspaperSG)
2. “Library to Hold Great S’pore Booksale,” Straits Times, 17 June 1998, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Priscilla Goy, “170,000 Books Snapped Up at Library Sale,” Straits Times, 20 July 2008, 14; Tan Judith, “60,000 Turn Up for Library Book Sale,” Straits Times, 24 August 2009, 18; “170,000 Books Sold,” New Paper, 20 July 2008, 27; Zaidah Rahmat, “Bag Books from just $1,” Straits Times, 12 July 2008, 3; “Bigger Venue, 250,000 Books on Offer This Year,” Straits Times, 19 June 1999, 4; “Get Cheap Books at Library Sale,” Straits Times, 10 January 2004, H8. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Jane Ng, “Library Book Sale That Got Too Hot,” Straits Times, 16 July 2000, 32 (From NewspaperSG); “Library Sale Attracts a Crowd.”
5. Azizah Sidek, et al., The People’s Library: 50 Years of National and Public Library Services (Singapore: National Library Board, 2007), 129–32. (Call no. RSING 027.55957 SIN); “Library to Hold Great S’pore Booksale”; Woon Wui Tek, “Bukit Merah’s Big Book Bang,” New Paper, 24 August 1994, 9; “Branch Library’s Sale of Old Books Draws Crowd,” Straits Times, 22 November 1996, 50; “Pram Comes in Handy at Library Sale,” Straits Times, 8 March 1997, 25. (From NewspaperSG)
6. “Library to Hold Great S’pore Booksale”; “A 2-1/2 Hour Wait to Buy Cheap Books,” Straits Times, 20 July 1998, 27 (From NewspaperSG); “Get Cheap Books at Library Sale”; Rahmat, “Bag Books from just $1”; Tan, “60,000 Turn Up for Library Book Sale”; “300,000 Used Books Up for Grabs at NLB Sale,” Straits Times, 16 September 2012, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Goy, “170,000 Books Snapped Up”; “Get Cheap Books at Library Sale”; Chua Wei Ying, “Double the Size, Double the Book,” New Paper, 2 July 1999, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
8. Kristina Tom, “Grab Your Pick From,” Straits Times, 11 August 2006, 2; Lim Lee Ching, The Big Book Feast,” New Paper, 4 July 2001, 28. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Ng, “Library Book Sale That Got Too Hot”; “Guess What These Queues Are For,” Straits Times, 12 January 2003, 6 (From NewspaperSG); Rahmat, “Bag Books from just $1”; Clara Chow, “70,000 Bookworms Flock to Library sale,” Straits Times, 15 August 2006, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
10. “Almost 100 Organisations Benefit Form Charity Book Donation.” Channel NewsAsia, 22 July 2011. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)

The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.