For over a decade, the Westport Library’s Summer Book Sale was a hot event.
For a few days, thousands of book, magazine, CD and vinyl lovers thronged an enormous tent on Jesup Green. Paying prices that decreased each day, they emerged with armfuls, boxfuls and (it seemed) semi-trailerfuls of stuff.
Early bird collectors — who resold what they bought at profits — jostled with readers of all ages: parents with young kids, teenagers, older folks who probably had 15,000 books already.
It was a great Library fundraiser.
It also took a ton of work. Armies of volunteers were needed to set up the (expensive) tent, monitor the flow and collect the cash.
And the “hot” event was literally that. Everyone sweltered. (Jesup Green didn’t look so hot itself, once the tent was dismantled.)
COVID put an end to the Summer Book sale. It has not returned.
But used books are as hot as ever. And the Library has adapted in several ways.
Westport Book Shop — across Jesup Green from the Library — has established itself as a premier spot for used books. Open every day except Monday, it’s a lot less hectic (and cooler in summer) than the tent. Its mission to employ people with disabilities adds to its importance.
There are still “book sales.” They’re twice a year, in spring and fall — inside the Library. The next one is November 11-14.
Volunteers are still vital. And no one has worked harder, or longer, for the Library’s book sales than Mimi Greenlee.
For over 20 years, she’s helped them grow and evolve. Her current role is managing inventory for the store and the sales. She works inside a trailer outside the building, in the upper parking lot.
It’s quite an operation.
Donors bring piles of books. (Including dumping them outside when the doors are closed, which shouldn’t be done.)
Some people haul in hundreds of volumes.
Volunteers sort the donations into 60 categories. There are big ones (Fiction, Mysteries, History) and smaller (Military, Judaica).
Managers decide the most appropriate place for each: the store, or the sales. They price each volume too, using online tools.
Not every donation is acceptable.
“People can’t throw away their own books,” Mimi says. “Unfortunately, some of them are moldy, from years in the garage or basement.”
Other books have broken spines or binding.
“Some people just don’t look at what they’re donating,” Mimi adds. “It happens a lot when they’re cleaning out a parent’s house, or moving quickly.”
The recycling bin comes in handy for those.
Even donations in good condition are not always acceptable. “We don’t take encyclopedias. Nobody wants them anymore,” Mimi explains.
Also unneeded: Magazines (“unless they’re very valuable”), VHS tapes, audio cassettes, and “outdated computer manuals.” Few textbooks make the grade.
Mimi wishes potential donors would ask: “Would I give this book to my grandmother?”
Because grandmothers — and grandfathers, moms, dads, kids, and everyone else in the area who can read — want used books.
But not the ones they’ve just thrown away.
(Volunteers are always needed — for sorting and other help, and at the book sales themselves. Email Mimi Greenlee for details: firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Like the Westport Library, “06880” relies on donations. Please click here to support this blog.)