In a recent “Letters to the Editor” section of the local paper, one writer complained about our largest local library. Money is tight for this library, as it is for many across the country. It’s true that the hours and staff have been cut and services aren’t quite what they used to be. Even so, it’s still a wonderful organization with many excellent services and programs.
I suppose the writer only wanted to complain about the library, as he never mentioned one of its best events – the library book sales held three times a year. In past years volunteers determined the cost of books by such things as subject matter, age of the book, condition, popularity, etc. A few years ago they decided to make their work easier and started marking all hardbacks $1 and all paperbacks 50¢. This even includes coffee table books and cookbooks, which are always a crowd favorite. Books designated as “gently used” are even more of a bargain, as they sell for 50¢ hardback, 25¢ paperback. The exceptions are sets of books which are higher priced, but still quite reasonable. There are also boxes of “surprise” books available for $1. These are taped shut and marked “35 paperback westerns” or “25 hardback romances” and such. There are usually at least a few books worth having, plus several that friends might also enjoy.
The first time I stumbled on the book sale I was literally stunned by the number of items available. I took the bus downtown that day, so I had to limit myself to what I could carry in one bag. When the next book sale came up my husband and I drove to the library, slobbered and drooled over the books, bought boxes and boxes of them, packed our vehicle with our purchases, then came home and slobbered and drooled some more. I’m sure we haven’t read all of those books from that sale, but that didn’t stop us from adding more books year after year. We finally realized that our house had become overwhelmed with books, and for several years didn’t go to any of the sales.
Although we certainly don’t “need” anymore books, a few years ago I once again began going to the library book sale, this time with a neighbor. After a while another friend joined us and we now have a tradition of going to the book sale, going out for lunch, then spending the rest of the afternoon visiting and relaxing. Part of the enjoyment of the day is sharing the happiness of our success of finding books we’ve been seeking.
At the most recent sale I succeeded in finding a book for a friend. The author she was interested in (Lillian Hellman) had been out of print for some time. She hadn’t found any of her books in any used book stores she’d visited in her area. As soon as I got to the book sale I headed for the plays and anthologies section, and within a minute found a paperback with two Lillian Hellman plays. With no other pressure to find anything in particular, I began browsing for a book or two that might strike my fancy. I do have somewhat of a tradition of looking for a “pretty book” to bring home. These look handsome displayed in rows on our bookshelves. Many times they are books of short stories in very attractive binding with gilt lettering, always printed on good quality paper. While I am a great fan of audio books and e-readers, I especially like the feeling holding one of the “pretty books” gives me. These books aren’t leather bound or expensive, but inspire a Crocodile Dundee misquote: “Now THAT’S a book!”
When I was at the book sale I wondered if the person who sent the negative letter to the newspaper was there. If so, I hope he appreciated all the work of the library and its volunteers in making such a wonderful selection of books available at such amazing prices. If not, then it was just that much nicer for all of us who browsed through the shelves and brought home our treasures.