Used Book Sale History

Enjoy some history about our 60 years of used book sale endeavors.

An excerpt from the 1960 year end report marking the beginning of the used book sale:

The AAUW “Used Book Market” began as a one day sidewalk sale on Main Street just outside the First Bank and later near the Main Street Cemetery. It continued outside for 11 years.

Longtime member, Christine Myles, remembers her first summer in Downers Grove: “I saw these strange ladies behind folding tables with short stacks of books on them. Never in the 35 years of living on Chicago’s south side had I seen such an operation! <snip> realizing the benefits of the Used Book Sale, I’m really quite proud of <becoming> one of those strange ladies!”

Book collections were originally made on an individual basis; we would use our own vehicles to pick-up donations or invite drop offs to the home currently used for storage. Collections soon became a public affair, held in parking lots in the sun, snow, or rain!

Originally, books were stored in the basement of branch members. Various members donated their entire basements to our effort over the years.

We began storing books at Eagle Storage in 1995. The Curio section was the final section moved out of a basement just a few years ago. The collections were moved indoors at Eagle in 1998.

The sale itself moved indoors, first to the basement of the First Congregational Church in 1972 when it became a three day sale.

It has been held at the Puffer School since 1995.

The line that forms before opening each day continues to be long!

With a used book collection effort that lasts 9 months, we inevitably get items we cannot sell and the amount of books we collect cannot be sold out in just three days.  What exactly we have done with unwanted and leftover books has varied with individual AAUW member effort remaining the constant.

Unwanted items from collections have in the past been recycled by individual members in their home garbage and recycling as well as at Eagle Storage.

*Currently, a member takes items to SCARCE ( where they are sold, donated, or recycled.

The leftover books after the sale are shared with other local non-profits.

*Friends of the Library ( choose from the remaining cookbooks and travel books for their sale.

*Hopes Front Door ( has received a box or two of the remaining Children’s books to share with clients.

*We have supported missions in Aurora, Illinois and India.

*Even a prison took some of the items for awhile!

These sources still don’t account for everything left after the sale!

*Up until 1989, individual members were tasked with hauling and disposing of the leftover books from the church basement.

*For a number of years after we moved to Henry Puffer School, we paid a recycling company to remove and dispose of the books.

*Before Open Books in Chicago ( even had a storefront, the founder hauled the leftovers from 2006-2008 to various garages, warehouses, and basements so she would be prepared for the day she had an actual building (Open books now has 2 locations and an online store!)

*Currently we use B-Logisitcs also known as Discover Books (  They originally provided us with a portion of the proceeds for books they sold through their online store.  Now, they pay us a flat rate based on the weight of the books they remove.

What about the “artful nudes” coffee table books?  A member takes them to Frugal Muse ( where we receive a fair cash value.  That way we don’t have to break up the giggling groups at the Arts & Entertainment table during the book sale!


In 2020, our Annual Used Book Sale was cancelled for the first time due to the pandemic.  Through an online appeal and personal donations, our branch membership generously donated the funds towards the 2020 Back-to-the-Books awards.

In 2021, we are once again faced with the cancellation of our Annual Used Book Sale due to complications caused by the pandemic.  Once again, the branch membership rose to the occasion and donated the funds in order for us to award the 2021 Scholarships.

Why do we hold this sale? What do we do with the proceeds?

Originally, the funds were used for “Fellowship” or what many organizations call “Ways and Means” to pay room rental fees and provide refreshments at branch meetings.

At some point, all proceeds were directed away from the branch and toward the National AAUW Education Foundation ( to fund national fellowships, research grants, and other educational endeavors of AAUW.

In 1984, the controversial decision was made to keep 49% of the proceeds local while continuing to send 51% to the National EF. The Branch funded an Educational Equity Speakers Bureau as well as the Back to the Books Scholarship.

The Speakers Bureau provided presentations at local Downers Grove schools as well as throughout Illinois for over 15 years but is no longer active.

The Back to the Books Scholarship has assisted 73 women in completing their education (plus 1 more funded by a private donation to the Scholarship Fund.) The photo collage includes pictures of 18 of those winners.

Over $120,250 has been given in amounts from $500 – $3000 to up to four recipients each year. There was only one year that there wasn’t a single applicant; usually the Scholarship Committee has a difficult job choosing the recipients.

The money has allowed women to earn everything from certificates to PhDs. The fields studied include:
Applied Behavioral Sciences
Social work & Counseling including human services, human relations, family intervention
Education including Art, Curriculum/ESL/Bilingual, Early, Elementary, & Special Ed.
Instructional Technology
Network Communication and Management
Medicine including Naturopathic, Dental, Chiropractic, Nursing, and Osteopathic
Nutrition and Wellness
Parish Music
Occupational Therapy
Physio Rehabilitation
Liberal Arts
and Certifications for MAT.LBSI, paralegals, & teachers

Most recently, the branch board has voted to keep 80% of the proceeds of the Used Book Sale local and it is used strictly for the Back to the Books Scholarship. 20% is sent to National for the Greatest Needs Fund.

With a 2 year hiatus, a new location and many, many changes, the 2022 Used Book Sale was a success.

Thank you to the community that provided such great support and purchased books with enthusiasm!

Upon completion of the sale, the committee discussed all aspects of the event, including book collections, book sorts, setup for the sale, staffing during the sale, teardown of the book sale, publicity, and involvement of branch members.

Given the intense level of resources required to prepare for and run the sale, the branch is considering options for 2023.

Please note that while options are being reviewed, book collections are suspended until further notice.