Friday, May 9, 2008

My Favorite Day of the Year, but . . .

This is the day I most look forward to all year -- it's book sale move in day!

My local AAUW branch, of which I am a 21-year member, holds a used book sale to raise money for various community organizations, from the women's resource center to Head Start programs. The book sale began in 1962, the same year (and I believe in the same month) I was born. I joke that I was born to volunteer for this event.

It is truly a community effort. The community donates books throughout the year, and the AAUW has to put a cap on the number of books it can receive, somewhere in the 100,000 range. Yes, our relatively small community regularly donates 100,000 books in about 7 months. That's a lot of books, folks.

Then dozens of volunteers show up to move the books from the warehouse to the arena where the sale is held. Volunteers unpack the books to tables (this is incredibly organized, no willy nilly books thrown on random tables), volunteers work the four days of the sale. Books not sold are sent for recycling to raise money for high school kids.

I am in charge of the biography table. I've worked that table for 15 years, all by myself. As a move-in volunteer, I can also buy a box worth of books that night, and I'll go back to the sale multiple times this week.

Book sale is the reason I have the library I do. I have a complete set of Dickens, Fitzgerald, Lawrence, Austin, and some other favorite authors thanks to book sale. Not matching sets, but all the books. I've been able to pick up out of print copies of some of my favorite books or upgraded books from paperback to hard cover of books I can't find in stores anymore. I have a book case of president and first lady biographies, most of which came from book sale finds. Heck, you should see my Bobbsey Twins and Five Little Peppers collections. I spend money at this thing, trust me.

But I find myself growing more uncomfortable with buying used books. No problem with used books by long-dead people, of course. But the tables are filled with books that are still relatively new -- people who read the book and didn't want to keep it, people who got the book as a gift and didn't want it, etc. The books have been bought already, but I feel like I'm hurting the author if this was a book I had wanted to buy otherwise.

So I made a rule for myself regarding newer used books. If it is a new-to-be author who has a ton of books already on the market, I'll buy used. If I like the author, I do end up buying his/her new books when they come out. If I don't like the author, well, I won't be buying any books anyway.

Mostly, though, I'll be going for older, harder to find books. Two years ago, I bought everyone in my book group a copy of Pride and Prejudice for their own as none had read the book and it was the book I had picked. Last year, they all got copies of The Great Gatsby. I didn't spend more than $10 total on all the books. That's what I love about book sale.

This year's mission? Books for the grandbaby!

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