Three times a year I leave my family for a mini-vacation at the Berkshire Athenaeum which, unless you hail from ancient Rome, Greece or western Massachusetts, is not a five-star spa but our local library.
Every spring, summer and fall, the Friends of the Athenaeum hold their legendary book sale. This is my favorite form of mother culture -- over 20,000 books, 50% of which are hard-covers and 75% donated -- it is an adrenaline rush for any book lover.
An invitation to the special preview sale held for friends means going head-to-head for your curriculum with some serious New York City booksellers as $10 and an address is all it takes to become a friend. Really, though, books are our friends for life so it just makes sense to befriend your local library.
A bookseller using a PDA scouting system. He merely scans the barcode on the book (or punches in the ISBN) and receives from an Amazon pricing database:
1 Lowest 3 used prices
2 Lowest new price
3 Sales ranking
5 Number of used offers
6 Number of new offers
7 Item conditions
8 Buyer waiting (if item has no seller listing)
The same bookseller waiting to checkout.
I was able to make it through about 1/4 of the offering in the three hours I was there. Last November, the Friends made a rule that all scanning had to be done "on shelf" which means that there is no pulling of piles of books off the shelves, giving everyone a much fairer chance of making a find. The atmosphere was relaxed and jovial.
Children's books are four for $1. Last November the Friends made $7,000 for their special events and programming at the library. I came home with two bags of books for $23.20 and Luca is thrilled as he found the Frog and Toad Are Friends which I'd gotten him.
Something for everyone. My favorite finds were the Audubon field guide, a story of Thomas Jefferson and his grandaughter called Grand Papa and Ellen Aroon by F.N. Monjo, and Benjamin Franklin's Wit and Wisdom from Poor Richard's Almanac from which I took the following quote.
Reading makes a full man - Meditation a profound man - Discourse a clear man.
Time to fill up.