WILLIAMSTOWN >> I was among the book lovers, book addicts and bargain book hunters flocking to the Friends of the Milne Public Library's 28th Annual Used Book Sale and Silent Auction held at Williamstown Elementary School April 22 and 23.
Approximately 25,000 books were neatly displayed on tables in the gymnasium according to category. Silent auction items were displayed individually in the cafeteria.
"We have more than 150 volunteers who help," said Jennifer Bayliss, co -chairwoman of the event along with Ginny Sheldon and Susan Pike. "Students from local schools pitch in. Football players do the heavy lifting."
At the book sale, some attendees were like children in a sweet shop, wide eyed and eager to scoop up delights.
Karen Beauchamin, of North Adams, was sitting on a bench outside the school gymnasium, several cardboard boxes and shopping bags filled with books and video tapes at her feet, when I struck up a conversation with her.
"Did you come to the sale alone? I asked. "No, every year we come as a family. Today four of us were able to come together." Karen said. "Tomorrow (Saturday) I'll be back with the rest of the family. They're working today."
We talked briefly about modern technology providing various ways of accessing reading material. "I love books. I'm not a Kindle kind of person. I want to feel the book in my hand, turn the pages," she said.
In the cafeteria, I browsed the treasures in the silent auction. The books ranged in genre from "The Complete Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow" to" The Three Little Pigs."
The Rev. Peter Elvin, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, Williamstown, was browsing too. He said he was not looking for anything in particular but would put in a bid when "something calls out to me."
Inscriptions in books stirred my curiosity. A children's book called "The Land of Pretend," published in 1921, was inscribed by the author: "Have fun in the Land of Pretend, Sincerely, Edith V. Bell, R.N." The book originally was a gift to the Children's Hospital in Boston, Ma, according to a note appended to the inscription.
I wondered if as an registered nurse, Bell ever ministered to girls and boy who were patients at Children's Hospital?
"The Sugar Plum Tree and other verses" by Eugene Field was inscribed "Happy Birthday to Virginia from Allentown 1941."
Was that the same child to whom an inscription in "Children of Other Lands" was addressed? It read "To Virginia, who had the measles and was a very good patient, from Mommy, April 13, 1946.''
I donate books to the Friends, but I never want to part with the books my late husband, Bill, and our children Christopher and Jennifer, gave me as gifts.
I was not familiar with "The Giving Tree" when Jennifer gave it to me one Mother's Day. No book reviewer's report or friend's opinion echoed in my ears as I read the book.
To me, it was a beautiful, touching story of a mother's selfless, unconditional love of her child. Thus, Jennifer's inscription become more meaningful and deeply appreciated: "Thanks Mom for always being my Giving Tree. I love you, Jen."
At the Friends book sale, there was a wide assortment of books for people of all ages. Even a baby was pleased with the variety, giggling and babbling cheerfully as he pointed to one book after another.
A senior citizen who was carrying several books said to the woman with her, "This should be enough for me for a while, two mysteries, Dick Van Dyke's autobiography and a science fiction. Now I'm going to look for a cookbook for my niece." "
Net proceeds from the Friends book sale are contributed to the Milne Public Library in Williamstown.
Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown.