Our public library has a great way to make money, clean out its old and duplicate titles, and help people in the community clean off the bookshelves at home. Once a year, the library requisitions the city auditorium for several days and has a huge book sale. The books are gathered all year long, both from the book shelves at the library and from donations of people in the surrounding community. People can donate any sort of book, whether it's an old textbook, a novel, a children's book, cookbook, craft book, whatever—as well as all kinds of magazines. After all, what does a person do with a year's worth of Good Housekeeping or National Geographic once he or she has read every word in them?
So, over a year, the librarians and their helpers accumulate a large number of items that must be sold. Several days before the weekend of the big sale, an army of volunteers, both young and old, move the merchandise from the library basement to the city auditorium about a block away. The books are put on long tables and sorted by category: mystery, romance, history, textbooks, etc. A special section on the stage of the auditorium is for special old editions, signed copies, and new copies. Finally, the librarians are ready.
Friday night, people who are interested in purchasing the books are charged $5 each for the privilege of having first crack at what usually turns out to be thousands and thousands of books. Many used book dealers travel from out of state, even Canada, to see what bargains they can find. And find them they do. At just a quarter for a paperback and a buck for a hardback, some people spend hundreds of dollars on books. They have boxes and boxes of books to take back to shops or libraries or schools or homes. It is an incredible sight, one that makes me hopeful that the electronic age hasn't really caused the death of books.
On Saturday, there is no charge to attend the book sale. Prices are the same, and more families come to see what they can find. Many people buy magazines at 25 cents per pound, much cheaper than a subscription. The volunteers who work the sale can have several jobs: counting up books and determining the charges, weighing magazines, collecting money, or straightening up the tables of books. I particularly like straightening the tables because I can find books that I want to buy for myself or take to school for my students. By Sunday, the ranks of books have dwindled greatly, but there are still many left. So, for what's left of the sale, people are charged a dollar per bag. The books and magazines that remain unsold are donated to a number of charitable groups.
This year, the library made somewhere between $18,000 and $20,000, enabling it to buy equipment and new books. Next summer, check out the Hastings Public Library's Web site. Maybe you'll come to see what it's all about.
By Carla Hedstrom
Meaningful Meanderings Blog