Libraries need all the help they can get and my library has been getting help for a long time from a group called The Friends of the Brown County Library. There are “Friends” groups all over the country but I don’t think any of them have a book sale like ours. I should say ‘sales’ because we do this twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.
All year we encourage people to go through the books they no longer use or need and donate them to the library. The librarians get first look at any books donated and add a lot of great stuff to the shelves. The librarians also remove a lot of stuff from the shelves because weeding is an ongoing process unless your library plans on adding an annex every five years. In our library system we have a central library and eight branch libraries so a lot of books get “recycled.” For 6 months volunteers spend about 20 hours a week sorting all the books, that are donated or weeded, into about 40 categories. We are not as anal as the librarians, we don’t do dewey. But we do fiction and all its subgenres, and general nonfiction categories, like history, science, art, music, cookbooks, sports, gardening, etc. When it’s time for the sale we have approximately 20 tons of books. Over 100,000 books sorted by category. Yep. This year we had about 1000 boxes, weighing approximately 40 lbs each, that equals 40,000 pounds!
Flashback! When I first started at the library, all donated and withdrawn books were dumped into a huge mountain in the basement. It sure seemed huge but it wasn’t even close to what happens today. It was a mess. Then we’d pick them all up before the sale, haul them into the library garage and put them, in no order, on tables and sell for two days. About ten years later, the Friends got a volunteer who knew how to organize.
How do we get them to the sales floor? That’s the auditorium, meeting rooms and every hallway and nook and cranny of the lower level of the central library. We ask the Boy Scouts, specifically Troop 1201. We get our book boxes moved, they get the credit and probably a badge.
This year Curt and I volunteered to help direct the running of the scouts. About twelve boys and their four troop leaders plus lots of carts and hand trucks started at 10am on Saturday and an hour later they were done. It’s fast, it’s furious and our job was to get each scout to the proper table with his labeled box, not throw ’em and run, not stack ’em ten high, not run over our toes.
The next day ten volunteers spend about seven hours unpacking. Wait! Didn’t we just spend 6 months packing these boxes? Ah, the circle of books.
After that we sell for the next 6 days. When all is said and done we average $35,000 for the library and we do that twice a year. And the best part is the librarians (I used to be one of them) give us a wish list for stuff that they normally can’t afford or the County officials won’t use “taxpayer’s money” on. We don’t pay the electric bill, we buy picture book kiosks, Wii, puppets, stools, laptops, display shelves, posters, digital picture frames and study tables. And we fund parties for the summer teen volunteers and refreshments for the local history series. We make the library special and inviting.
So today is a pre-sale for the hard-working volunteers and members of the Friends organization. Tomorrow, general public. Come on down if you’re in Northeast Wisconsin! Bring money! Have fun! It’s a great way to recycle books and support the library.