Fall 2002

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Editorial: The Used Book Sale ... Trash To Treasure

by Edwin M. Field, TRUSTEE Editor, NYSALB Director

Fall 2002 issue of Trustee

In July of this year, the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency collected more than 37,500 books in that county's first campaign to recycle hardcover books. Many of the books were outdated and had outlived their usefulness. Recycling is a great alternative to the trash, but statewide, local libraries are using book sales as a positive way to recycle, provide reading material and raise much needed funds.

The old adage "One person's trash is another person's treasure" is easily recognized as a truism when spotting a crowd eagerly lined up and awaiting the hour when the doors of the library are thrown open to admit a crowd of book hungry buyers.

These are the avid readers who rapidly go through the thousands of books up for grabs looking for a new take-home supply. The first edition collectors are there too. They are seeking opportunities with their eager search geared toward locating just one prized book that others may have overlooked. There are also many who just enjoy browsing among books and picking up a few for future reading entertainment.

This summer a long line at one regional library's used book sale prior to the start of its scheduled opening. It was probably the first of many such library used book sales that abound summer-long.

Waiting on line to be among those first into a book sale apparently has a purpose. For serious book lovers the concept is to be able to get first choice of the pickins'. The early forming line contained the avid readers, the serious collectors, and those people happy to find a way to inexpensively restock their home library shelves.

While pocket books were going for a quarter, hard covered books seventy five cents to a dollar and audio tapes for two dollars, the real bargain appeared to be ten dollars for all the books you could stuff into a carry bag. Once in, it just required a bit of buying self-control. However, judging by the bags going out, no one was exercising very much.

For the true bibliophile, the used book sales are a coveted summer event ... a source of supply at extremely reasonable prices. As a  matter of fact, especially in resort or vacation type communities, a library event such as a book sale always receives the blessing of the governing fathers.

For the library, the sales event brings in cash, extra income which can rapidly be turned to good use. At the same time, the sales event helps clear a portion of the library's stacks for new book arrivals. Perhaps one of the most vibrant points of a library used book sale is the opportunity to recycle, to create a new, useful life for good books.

Many community members feel the same way. Being raised when it was not acceptable to throw books away, some of the best book sales you find are full of not only discarded library books, but also those books donated by people in the community. This produces a treasure trove of books on every conceivable subject.

The used book sales most cherished by buyers are those where the library staff or Friends group divide up the available books into specific recognized categories. One person might collect cook books and another texts on physiology. Another individual's special interest might be audio tapes, while mysteries or true romances are what others seek out. What better way to come upon a library used book sale then to be able to head directly for the area of interest and not have to search through stacks and boxes for a specific area of interest.

While standing in line patrons shared a couple of useful techniques that work well at library used book sales. Get there early and make sure you bring strong, fabric tote bags with you to carry the books you buy. Often Friends of the Library groups have their name imprinted on these tote bag and sell them as a fund raiser for eager book buyers to stuff at the fair.

Organizing and promoting used book sales at area libraries provides a great community service, can raise funds for library groups and recycles reading material in the best possible way. It's supportive, fun and a rewarding personal experience.

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