Classic literary works, modern anthologies and musical scores lined the shelves of the Cushman Room of the Boston Public Library’s Central Library. People, young and old, scanned the rows of books and added to the growing piles in their arms intending to take them home. However, instead of having to check out and return the books, those who attended the book sale were able to purchase their literary finds.
On Saturday, the Boston Public Library hosted a book sale to help fund unbudgeted resources in the library. Selling items that ranged from hardcover and paperback novels to records and CDs, the book sale drew a wide range of customers.
Dave Vieira, president of the City-Wide Friends of the Boston Public Library, said the profits made during the book sale would do more than help the library continue to run and buy more books. He noted that, as the state library, the Boston Public Library has a state-of-the-art digitization lab, in which printed books and manuscripts can be digitized and made available electronically to all. A percentage of the funds went toward purchasing more high-quality equipment for the lab.
According to Vieira, the group has been hosting events like these to support the library since its founding in 1987. Though it was initially formed to stop the closing of branch libraries and cutting back hours, the City-Wide Friends has remained to serve as an advocacy group for libraries, hosting these book sales as one of its primary fundraising events.
Tom Owen, a volunteer with City-Wide Friends, said he believed that the turnout of Saturday’s event was more than the group could have imagined. His role in the book sale was to answer questions and help customers find books, but he said that there were times that he couldn’t move throughout the room because of the amount of people searching through the shelves of books.
“This is probably the biggest crowd that we’ve had this year,” Owen said. “This is the one that prompts the question, ‘When are we going to get a bigger space?’”
In preparation for each book sale, Vieira said, a crew of volunteers goes in and sorts through the donations of books, musical scores, CDs and records, organizing them by different categories and genres so items are easy to find for customers and volunteers.
Books are also marked with different colored dots that correspond to how long the book has been in the sale. When an item doesn’t sell out after three book sales, it’s pulled and donated to a variety of places, such as the Suffolk County Jail, daycare centers and hospitals. Teachers are also given the opportunity to come in and take the unsold books for their classrooms for free.
Due to the range of donations that the library gets for the book sale, Vieira said that more often than not, people are able to find an item that they want to buy, whether or not they planned on finding it at the book sale. He noted that people’s sheer excitement for the book sale itself is enough to motivate customers to search through the large collection of items to find something to take home.
“I’m looking at people walking through the door, and almost everybody always has a smile on their face as they walk through the door,” he said. “They’re finding stuff that they never knew they wanted to read, or they’re finding stuff that they always wanted to read that they never thought they’d find.”
Katherine Chao, a Northeastern University sophomore, attested to this idea. She purchased a collection of books at the sale. Chao, an avid reader, stopped by after seeing the event on Facebook, she said.
“I really love reading, so I thought I would come check it out and see what books are here and add to my collection,” Chao said. “You never know what treasures you can find here.”
Out of the assortment of books she walked out with, Chao’s most treasured find was Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia.” She said that she had been looking for a printed copy of the play for a while now, and it was a pleasant surprise to find it in a book sale that she only spontaneously decided to attend.
Vieira said that the immense turnout of the event goes to show that there are still people out there who care about libraries and books.
“Every time people say that libraries are passé, I always say to them, ‘Come to one of our book sales, and you’ll see that books are not dead,’” he said. “‘Libraries are not dead.’”