Friends of the Library fall book sale, a community tradition, returns this week

photo by: File photo

Tamara Dutton, a Friends of the Public Library volunteer, shelves books Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in the basement of the Lawrence Public Library in preparation for the fall book sale. The fall sale opens again this week, Thursday through Sunday.

Forty-six years ago, three Lawrence women came together and began a lifelong friendship.

A year later, the newly formed Friends of the Lawrence Public Library, a nonprofit aiming to raise funds for the library, held its first book sale, said Mary Burchill, one of the three founders.

They didn’t know what they were getting themselves into at first, Burchill said, but they found a way to turn a simple idea into a community staple.

“I had never heard of Friends groups,” Burchill said of her thinking at the time. “Well, what do you do? Well, one of the things they do is book sales. OK, we could do that.”

The group started collecting books for the first sale in June 1973. The books were a dollar each, and the sale was called “A Book for a Buck.”

“That’s how it all started, and it’s just grown from there,” Burchill said. “It’s just gotten better and better.”

Many years later, the prices have not increased much. This week, the book sale is back for its annual fall event where customers can buy hardcover books for $2 and paperbacks for $1. The sale also includes other items, like movies, musical recordings and video games.

The sale opens to the public at 10 a.m Friday at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St., but members of the Friends organization will have first dibs at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Shoppers can become members of the Friends for $10 alone or $15 for a family. Memberships can be purchased at the door of the book sale, online at the Friends of the Lawrence Public Library website or in person at the library’s welcome desk.

Burchill said the first sale had only a few categories: children’s fiction and nonfiction and adult fiction and nonfiction. The group made $1,700 for the library, she said.

These days, shoppers have a lot more to peruse, said Ron Schorr, a longtime member of the Friends who has helped with the sales. He said fiction is still popular, but now cooking, travel and art books, among others, are also sought after.

“Every year you might have a (KU) faculty member in political science retiring and we get a thousand books from them,” he said. “This year we got the big donation of biology books, and I’m interested in biology.”

And the Friends now raise a lot more money for the library: $90,000 to $100,000 each year, Schorr said.

Burchill is happy to see how the sale has bloomed into a tradition.

“I think it’s very rewarding to see Lawrence has accepted this whole thing,” she said. “We love our books here.”

Burchill and Schorr both served on the board of the organization, and they both help sort books for the sales, they said. Burchill likes sorting because she gets the first look at all the items for sale.

“You see things you never even knew existed,” she said. “It’s wonderful.”

She acknowledges she has bought more books than she needs over the years, but if she ever has a book she knows she isn’t going to read, she just takes it right back to re-sell.

When asked if he had any tips or tricks for finding great books at the sale, Schorr said becoming a member of the Friends and attending the early membership night sale was the best way. He said the members night produces between $4,000 and $5,000 of book sales.

“The books do sell, and the best books go quickly,” he said.

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