Get the exclusive (almost) Weekly Digest.

    Frugal Moment: Building a Library

    November 24, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    Some homeschoolers use a library {a lot of churches in our town have libraries, ours even had a homeschooling library full of used curriculum for a time, and there is always the public library}, others try to build a library. Actually, I shouldn’t make this so black and white because I am sure a number of families do both.

    I like to own my books.

    Some books I read over and over to the children because the children want me to. Some of them I read over and over to the children because I want to. Some books I underline. Some I simply want to have as a reference for the future. Some I know I used for the first of many times, with the first of my students. And all of them I keep because I think they will be a blessing to my grandchildren.

    That, and I love them.

    The hard thing is building a library in a frugal manner. There are inexpensive copies of many of the classics, but I have noticed these aren’t always made to last. The covers and binding are cheap and it is hard to maintain any semblance of “good” condition. Cheap copies are also often lacking in quality illustration.

    I honestly prefer no illustrations to bad illustrations. The mind can invent beautiful pictures if allowed.

    For a time I thought that this desire for good binding and quality paper and overall attractiveness required me to buy new books. This was before my son started reading books faster than we could aquire them. Once a child takes off on their reading, it can be hard for the library to keep up!

    So, here is a short list of how I am working to build a library that is full of quality, quantity, and frugality:

    • Book Closeouts: I already wrote about it here, so I’ll be brief. These are new copies of books, often overstocked items. This is a great way to pick up gift and anniversary editions for important occasions like Christmas or birthdays.
    • The Baldwin Project: This is also something I’ve written about, but I’m trying to have a complete compilation here, all in one post. Here we have books that aren’t under copyright restrictions. Sometimes I print them off into binders. This helps in emergency school situations, and I don’t just mean financial. Sometimes copies of these books are just plain hard to find, and this is a great way to make due for the moment. I hope to replace these printed copies with real books someday, but they are a real part of our library, so I thought I’d mention them.
    • Used Bookstores: I am becoming more bookstore savvy as I grow in my book collecting wisdom. I cannot overemphasize the importance of carrying a list. This will help you recognize a gem when you see it. I have a million lists going: one for me, one for Si, one for the children, one for school. Now that I’ve settled on Ambleside for the bulk of our liberal arts program here at home, I plan to carry a complete list of books for the program with a notation for what year they will be used.

      Thanks to Si, we already own a gorgeous old copy of Churchill’s The Birth of Britain, aquired for only five dollars. This book is the ideal in every way. It is old, richly bound {sewn, not glued}, with golden embossing on the side and front covers. When you imagine a real personal library, with floor-to-ceiling bookcases, it is filled with books just like this. Trust me. We won’t need it until Year Seven, but five dollars is a bargain. If I carry the list everywhere we might see a used bookstore, my chances of making a wise investment are increased.

    • Used Books Online: Obviously, I am an Amazon fan. This is because my experience with has been hit and miss. Amazon often has great deals, with books costing little more than the shipping cost. I am only wary of online used books because I cannot see them before I purchase them. But I have few regrets.

      As always, if you click through to Amazon from Afterthoughts, you pay the same, but you support our educational endeavors at the same time. For those of you who have been showing the love faithfully all these months, we appreciate you!

    • PaperBackSwap: So far, this is where I have gotten the best deals. I think PBS is intended for voracious readers who are constantly switching out their libraries, but I’m using it to my advantage and keeping almost every book I get. An exception might be a couple I got that aren’t in the kind of condition I’m looking for as a long-term investment. Once I joined, I sent out an email begging local friends and family to dump their excess books on me if they didn’t want to join the club themselves. This has been such a blessing, as I now have piles and piles of books waiting to swap. Each book yields one credit {audio books are two}, and I hoard my credits, waiting for the perfect book to come along.

      How I wish I could share my PBS stack with you! One extra-special moment was when I ordered three “Story of” books from the same woman. I think they were The Story of Crazy Horse, The Story Of Buffalo Bill, and The Story of Geronimo. When I opened the box, this woman, whom I do not know, had sent me six. It had been a hard week, and my eyes welled with tears. This is to say that PBS has been a personal blessing on more than one occasion.

    Libraries are a family treasure, in my estimation. This is why we will always have ugly couches upon which to read our beautiful books. I am sure that some of my readers can afford to buy each book new in the exact edition they are looking for. But for those of us who cannot do this, there are other ways to expand the family’s literary repertoire.

    Get the (almost) weekly digest!

    Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.

    Powered by ConvertKit


  • Reply Brandy November 25, 2007 at 4:07 pm


    Send me a link to the notecards when he is done, for I would love to see them!

    Sorry we got you sick. We are STILL sick. I really thought it was going to be over quickly, but then it seems there was just one good day in the middle. We are not as sick as you all, but we are not well and had to miss a birthday party yesterday and everything. Bummer.

  • Reply Kimbrah November 25, 2007 at 8:08 am


    I totally feel you on this one. I just got a PBS package today where the sender included an extra book with science experiments for kids. What a blessing!

    Eddie is working on a set of notecards to sell right now that have this saying by Erasmus, “When I get a little money I buy books and if any is left I buy food.”

    It’s kind of our family motto. 🙂

    On another note, I hope your family is feeling better than mine is.


  • Leave a Reply