Saturday, November 12, 2011

My Library Book Sale Experience

  For the last few years I have volunteered at my local library's book sale.  The sale has a permanent location, in the lower level of the branch library, and because it is shelved almost like a "real" library I find that it is one of the more organized sales I've attended.

  My duties vary as needed, from calculating the customers' purchases to tidying up the shelves and helping people find what they are looking for.  In both cases I love observing how people act at the sales.  You get dealer types with their little handheld devices that they use to scan the books (for what I'm not sure), teachers looking to build up their classroom libraries, and avid readers picking up a favorite author's backlist titles. 
  My inner bibliophile kicks in too, and I'm always interested in seeing what types of books people read.  I admit to being a bit of a book snob, and when I see people loading up on James Patterson books or those of similar type robo-authors, I do judge them a little bit (in my mind only!), but when someone comes to the checkout with some books that interest me, I immediately want to talk to them and discover why they've picked these books (I've also been known to hand-sell books at the sale). 

  I'm not involved with the year-round planning that goes into the thrice-yearly sales, but I'm sure it is no small undertaking.  The few hours that I put in can be tiring, especially when I'm reshelving books, but I really do enjoy it.

  I just put in my shift at the sale yesterday, and one of the perks of volunteering (well, THE perk) is that you are given $5 credit for books.  Yeah, it's not a lot, but that amount can be stretched when you're talking used books; and besides, given that it is a charitable cause they don't even have to do that.  My shift involved tidying the shelves and re-shelving books, so I had a lot of opportunity to browse.  Here is what I picked up:

  The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
   The Clumsiest People in Europe or: Mrs. Mortimer's Bad-Tempered Guide to the Victorian World edited by Todd Pruzan
  Citizen Soldiers by Stephen E. Ambrose (Zohar at Man of la Book just mentioned this one in his Veterans' Day post)
  Collected Stories by Saul Bellow
  The Twins by Tessa De Loo
  Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
  Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (this is in immaculate condition!)

Total cost to me:  Free!  (actually, it was $1.75 but one of the other volunteers hadn't used up all of her credit so she gave it to me).  Not bad for a few hours of work :-)


  1. I bet it's just nice helping out - and then being able to get some great books is wonderful.

    Tessa de Loo is Dutch - I read this book and I think I enjoyed it (It's been a while). I'm surprised you haven't read Her Fearful Symmetry yet. It's very nice.

    Have fun with these books!

    I wish our library did sales, but no.

  2. I love library book sales, I have found so many great books there for really cheap. I should think about volunteering for one soon!

  3. I love volunteering at my library's book sales too! We also get credit for volunteering and because I mostly help with the set-up, I get to check out all the books before we even let the customers in! Good haul.

  4. All I find at my library sales are endless Pattersons, I never find anything good!

  5. Good finds! I liked Her Fearful Symmetry. It reminded me of a modern gothic novel. I have yet to read The Scarlet Letter but I plan to this year for a challenge. It's supposedly a classic that stands up to time.

  6. It seems like my local library is always having a sale. There are a couple of carts that seem to be stocked with an ever rotating stash of books. Usually there's nothing that interesting on them, but the other day there were several great titles. Of course, that was the day I only had $2 cash - so I had to choose my one selection carefully! I ended up with Barbara Ehrenreich's Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy. I haven't started it yet, but it looks really interesting.

  7. I'll be interested to hear what you think of The Twins. I enjoyed it a lot when I read it for Dutch lit class in junior high, but I am afraid to go back to it now thinking it may disappoint. You could keep it for next year's Dutch lit month ;)

  8. You're going to love Citizen Soldiers ( It's a history book from "mud level" with lost of personal stories.

  9. I think I heard that those scanner things are used to check market prices. So the barcode will immediately feed into their system and tell them whether it's worth buying a particular book to sell on or not. Very cheeky, if you ask me...

    Running a bookshop I do the same thing as you, looking at the different types of people and what they buy. As soon as the words 'Maeve Binchy' and 'Danielle Steel' are mentioned I go back to my book! HOW people ask is interesting too - if they ask for 'Ronald Dahl' or 'that Jane Eyre thing - Bronte, isn't it?' (they pronounce it 'Bronty') I know they're not book people and either buying for someone else or jumping on a movie bandwagon!

    My favourite thing is when really avid readers or book club members arrive, because they always talk books as they browse, and pick out books they've enjoyed to show their friends, and know about all kinds of different books and literature. It makes a welcome change around here, I'll tell you! :)


What do you think? Good or bad, I'd love to hear from you (but be nice - I'm sensitive!)