Monday, June 1, 2015

What Some People Do for Books

There is nothing like a library book sale. Half our library consists of books we have gathered from such sales. Emily is a pro, having tactics for unearthing the best books, and our car is inevitably riding lower on the way home.

Where we live in the mountains, libraries are small, attendance at sales is sparse, and selection is scanty -most book sales consist of about as many books as would fit in your living room; however, there are a couple of big sales in not-too-distant larger cities, which are worth making the effort to attend. Since our first experiences at library sales, we have formed a strategy. Usually, we arrive two to four hours early and get in line. Those precious seconds to minutes before the crowd pours in can give you just a little edge. While we wait, we visit with the other dealers and bookworms who can't resist a good sale either, and examine the map of the floor plan so when that breathless moment a arrives and the doors swing open to let in the masses, we can head straight to our chosen destination. We pounce on the nonfiction first, as it is more rare to find out-of-print treasure in those genres, but leave no book unturned. Generally, we carry off eight to twelve boxes of books and spend the ride home crowing over our finds.

So today we went to a book sale, but it didn't happen exactly like that.

We really didn't have time to go. It was two-and-a-half hours away. Often our entire family is there and spreads out to divide and conquer. Not Today. Instead, our exploring party consisted of eight months pregnant Emily, her 15-month-old baby, my eleven-year-old, and me - the blind mother (Obviously, I am not a big help at a sale as reading titles isn't my strong suit, but am usually quite helpful in acting as a human book cart and for counting totals and packing boxes). For Emily, supremely efficient, dragging a baby, a boy for whom the dusty chaos and labor of a book sale lost its charm at least ten years ago, and a blind woman is a bigger burden than the child she is carrying. Still, ever fearless and dauntless, Emily cheerfully took on the challenge.

But today was one of those days. It began for Emily at 4:30 a.m. when the unborn baby decided to practice stretching exercises. Then, her husband got called into work early and she had to do more farm chores than usual. We got off to a late start, but were all smiles. Book-saling is giddy fun.

First, the GPS took us to the wrong school. By the time we found the right one, the parking lot was packed. Have I mentioned it was 89 degrees today? The baby fell asleep just as we arrived, so, to allow him some rest, my son and I got out to hold a place in line while Emily went to grab some lunch. On the way, several concerned citizens pointed to the car and she discovered she had a flat tire. There she was, large with child, a sleeping toddler in the backseat, and needing to take care of a tire in 89 degrees. Unfortunately, since her mother's mind is completely absorbed with wedding plans for daughter number three, she had left her phone at home and couldn't be reached. The mother and little brother stood on the blistering pavement outside the sale, patiently waiting, slowly melting.

When Emily finally returned, we coaxed the Friends of the Library helpers to let us inside to use the ladies room. People are kind to expectant mothers. When we came out, the crowd was pouring in, though the sale wasn't scheduled to start for another 40 minutes. It seems that those in charge had had mercy on the sweating shoppers outside. We hadn't signed in, didn't have a ticket to get in, but were in nonetheless. Flustered, feeling off balance, her usual premeditated preparation nonexistent (not to mention a chance to catch her breath), Emily spun around frantically scanning for the children's section. We hadn't had time to grab a map. Where was the children's section? An essential key to understanding our frantic feelings here is to mention that this sale we've attended every year had a brand-new and unfamiliar venue this year. Then, there was the anxiety about the children. How could we let the boy with the baby outside know where we were (surely the responsible action to take)? Oh well, he'll figure it out, the books are the priority.

So, flustered and frazzled, we scurried around till we found the right section and then habit took over, our usual adrenaline rush being from feeling out of control rather than from anticipation of the hunt. My son eventually convinced the doorkeepers he belonged to someone inside and arrived in time to begin carrying loaded boxes to the check-out area. My perfect grandson delighted everyone with his jovial personality and never made a fuss until we prepared to depart, when he protested loudly. It was disappointment at leaving I'm sure, because he loves a sale as much as the rest of us.

The trials were not quite over. We had to stop several times on the 150 mile homeward journey to check the weak tire, and were also deluged with that torrential rain unique to this region at this season, which, at one point forced us to pull to the side of the freeway.

Safe and soundly home at last, the whirlwind trip behind us, we look forward to unpacking booty and rejoicing over more rescued books, preserved for young readers, because we do not consider the oldies we snagged at all obsolete or unuseful to their minds and imaginations. The new additions to our library will eventually find their way to our shelves, be checked out by countless young readers who will never know the lengths we went to to procure them.

For the joy of reading,



  1. Whohoo! A great time had by all and worth every bit of it. Wish I could have gone.

  2. If you had been there, Robin, it surely would have been a smoother experience. I smiled, while I was there, to think of the squeal you let out at that sale several years ago upon finding a "discarded" copy of Giraffe Who Walked to Paris. Library saling is a memory maker.

  3. Well I could have helped anyway. We've had some great times at those sales! Can't wait to hear about your finds.

  4. Oh my. I can just picture this in my mind. You gals are die-hard! :-) I say that with much admiration! I so understand the added accomplishment of doing this with the end-of-pregnancy-belly...kudos to your daughter!!!

    1. Yes, Emily is amazing. Some affectionately say she is "formidable" at
      book sales. She is the true example of how our children grow up to be
      so much more than we ever envisioned.