One way I've gotten around owing library fines is buying library discarded books. It's a good way to build a home library, provided that you shop at libraries that provide the selection you need.

My local public library hosts a discard sale three times a year in which it liquidates worn, obsolete, or rarely circulated books. Though many buyers are bookstore owners most are people who like to read and want to cultivate a good selection. More often than not, books are stamped DISCARD or the like, and the page containing the checkout card and ISBN serial has been torn out. Rarely, donated books are sold with dust jackets and other additions.

Discard books are not taken by bookstores for resale, so plan on keeping these books unless you donate them back to the library system. Rather, select titles you want to read, enjoy, and flip them for more books when you're done. at US $0.10/book or so, it's an unlimited loan for what you'd pay for each day overdue. Yet, the temptation is there to keep every book and never donate them. At one time I tried to cram 350 to 400 volumes into a tiny attic apartment. Saturation will eventually happen.

Best times to get to the discard sale is within one to two hours of opening on the first day of sale, and in the last few hours of the sale's run. Arriving early allows the viewer to get any "necessities", but I have been able to tote away boxes of books on the last day for no other reason that the library ran out of storage for the books. Better yet, if a cheap attack hits just scan for unpopular books you might want and get the favorites first. It's likely these books will be waiting at closing time. You'll find soon enough that most people are at the sale for Harlequins and travelogues, not Thomas Mann and Magnus Mills.

Expect a mess, books on the floor and people running around as if on ritalin. It's all part of the fun. There's no better feeling than crushing your fingers under huge hardcovers or getting your feet stepped on by some septugenarian hellbent on completing her Jeff Smith cookbook collection. Bring strong canvas shopping bags, and some hand cream for the parched hands and paper cuts.

These same tips apply to closeout stores and thrift shops, but in these cases books will be more expensive yet in resale condition. Have fun reading or getting school textbooks, and stay away from the high school student workers running those book carts down the hallways in top gear.