On a recent tour of the New Gloucester Public Library’s basement with Friends of the Library President Deborah Chandler, I was struck by the highly-refined system the Friends operate in support of our local library. This work by the dozen-or-so Friends, who convene every Tuesday, takes place in a warren of subterranean rooms, only a few of which are seen by the public at their twice-annual book sales. “Yes,” admits Deb, “we are organized to within an inch of our lives.”
Boxes of books, videos and games dropped off by local residents at the circulation desk upstairs are first reviewed by the librarians who select some donations to go into the library’s collection, supplementing those books purchased by the library, and some are duplicates stored to replace books in the library’s circulating collection. Boxes are then moved to the basement where they are sorted into multiple categories. Books and other materials for the sales in October and February are sorted into categories and shelved in two large rooms by the dozen Friends, each of whom has a specialty. (For example, Betty Kolda focuses on history while Phoebe Hardesty’s specialty is vintage books.) Another room holds supplies, from boxes to bags for shoppers, and the counting room is where Friends tally up and bag books for shoppers. Books that don’t sell are separated as “Buck a Bag” books to be sold by high school volunteers, and others go to Goodwill, prisons, military and other groups. “Nothing is wasted,” notes Deb. “We even have someone who takes leftovers and burns them for fuel.”
Funds raised by the book sales support the library’s programming, from children’s events to the passes to parks and museums that residents may borrow. They have also been used for other purposes, such as an engineering study and building a garden shed outside the library (the Friends also maintain the gardens around the library).
But the value of the Friends’ work goes beyond the dollars raised through book sales. Donated books that supplement the library’s collection have a value that is three times what the library has in its budget for book purchases each year. This allows the library to offer a much larger and richer selection to residents than would otherwise be possible
The educational and cultural value of the Friends’ book sales can’t be calculated in terms of dollars. Access to quality books and other educational materials at low prices makes it possible for families and teachers to purchase plenty of books for children. For adults, the sales are not only a great opportunity to stock up, but also invite people to connect with each other and to explore new areas of knowledge. Many people buy, read and re-donate books, creating a sense of community among patrons. The Friends’ book sales bring book-lovers from beyond New Gloucester, some of whom arrive early to get first chance at the treasures that await. In fact, the Friends’ sale is well known to book sale fans far and wide.
The Friends’ recent award for commendable community service from the Spirit of America Foundation is well-deserved. We all benefit from the dedication of this lively group of volunteers.
Written by Debra Smith, Edited by NGX