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Archive for Saturday, April 11, 2009

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Behind the stacks: Volunteers prep for big sale

Getting ready for the biannual book sale at Lawrence Public Library, Walter Olker works through stacks of Western books in the library’s basement.

Getting ready for the biannual book sale at Lawrence Public Library, Walter Olker works through stacks of Western books in the library’s basement.

April 11, 2009

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Leslie O'Neil, coordinator of Friends of the Lawrence Public Library, looks down stacks of books that are being processed for the annual book sale.

Leslie O'Neil, coordinator of Friends of the Lawrence Public Library, looks down stacks of books that are being processed for the annual book sale.

Random selections

Ten random books from this year’s Friends of the Lawrence Public Library Book Sale, as selected by Leslie O’Neil, the organization’s coordinator:

1. “No Touch Monkey!: And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late,” by Ayun Halliday.

2. “John Steuart Curry: Inventing the Middle West,” by Patricia Junker.

3. “Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass,” by Gary Paulsen.

4. “Wasn't the Grass Greener?: Thirty-three Reasons Why Life Isn't as Good as It Used to Be,” by Barbara Holland.

5. “Bleeding Kansas,” by Sara Paretsky.

6. “Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion,” by Julie Campbell.

7. “The Iron Giant,” movie on VHS.

8. “A Short History of the Printed Word,” by Warren Chappell.

9. “The World Without Us,” by Alan Weisman.

10. “You Come Too: Favorite Poems for Readers of All Ages,” by Robert Frost.

Past Event
Friends of the Lawrence Public Library Book Sale

  • When: Thursday, April 16, 2009, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Where: Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St., Lawrence
  • Cost: Free
  • More on this event....

Sorting through English and grammar books for the last 14 years, Marian Wilbur has come to a conclusion.

“My advice to anyone writing a book is don’t use the word ‘new,’ ‘modern’ or anything like that in the title,” Wilbur says. “It looks silly after three to five years.”

These are the types of things you learn when you’re sorting through thousands of books, preparing for the twice-a-year phenomenon that is the Friends of the Lawrence Public Library Book Sale, which benefits the library.

The organization will sell somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 books and other media when it opens for business Thursday, for members, and Friday to the public. The sale runs through April 26 in the tent in back of the library, 707 Vt.

The public sees the eight-day sale, but few people think about the yearlong process that leads to it, the process that has made the sale a tradition since 1972.

The process

“It’s a huge undertaking,” says Leslie O’Neil, coordinator of Friends of the Library. “But the volunteers do it because they love it.”

More than 100 volunteers are involved in the process.

About 50 are year-round volunteers who sort through books, determining which should be included in the sale and what the price should be.

Among the considerations:

• What is the condition of the book?

“There are books that are almost untouched, to books that have mold and we have to throw away,” Wilbur says.

• Is the book outdated?

Books from the ’80s giving outdated information about HIV/AIDS, or other such topics, don’t make it to the sale.

“We don’t sell books that say, ‘Someday, man will walk on the moon,’” O’Neil says.

• Does it cross the line?

Human sexuality books are OK, and are classified as such. Pornography is not OK.

• Does the library want to shed it?

Books that haven’t been checked out in some time — the ones the library wants to get rid of — also will make it onto the sale shelves.

Volunteer involvement

Volunteers specialize in specific categories.

In Wilbur’s case, she wanted the English/grammar books because she spent her career as a high school English teacher. Her husband, retired teacher Ray Wilbur, works on math books.

Both go to the library to sort books about once a month. Other volunteers, such as those in charge of the more popular fiction or Western genres, go more like once a week.

The books come from individual donors and local bookstores. Sometimes, mass donations come in from individual donors — this year’s offerings include some of the collection of Robert Hemenway, who is retiring as chancellor of Kansas University.

The sale isn’t just about books, either. Other media, including VHS tapes, CDs and DVDs also are staples at the event.

By the end of the weekend, nearly all of the materials will be sold. The rest will be recycled.

“I sometimes think I’m the director of an orphanage, and I have to find everybody a home every six months,” O’Neil says.

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