Thursday, March 26, 2009

There is No Frigate

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
4 Title
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.


Laura Lee said...

Oh, great finds!! I love our library's book sales, too!! We even have one local library in the county that has a great standing store inside, where there's a constant turnover and a free book for kids every Thursday!! The kids know Momma has to stop there before we hit the borrowing shelves, every time!!

Jeanne said...

My goodness!!

Perhaps one day I'll be able to join you for this! What a dream.

I hope you'll share the titles of your finds in more detail!