Phyllis McGuire | View from the Village: In the digital age, library book sale hasn't lost it's appeal

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WILLIAMSTOWN — Thanks to volunteers, approximately 10,000 gently used books were neatly displayed at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish Center in North Adams and offered at extremely low prices on Sept. 22 and 23.

The parish center has been the site of the Friends of the North Adams Public Library book sale and silent auction for several Septembers, the date having been chosen as it does not conflict with other book sales in the area.

"But it is not a competition," said Mary Jane Desmaris, chairwoman of the book sale for the past eight years with Judy Noel as co-chairwoman. "Williamstown Friends of the Milne Public Library were very helpful in getting us started."

In 1986, the group hosted its first book sale in a tent on the lawn of the library, and when the North Adams Public Library was being renovated in 2004, the book sale was located in the temporary library in the former Wall-Streeter Shoe Co.

Now the Friends are glad to be able to hold the book sale in the parish center.

"It's great; bright, big, with room for people to use walkers and baby carriages, and there is plenty of parking space," said Desmaris.

Proceeds of the book sale benefit the North Adams Public Library.

When I arrived at the parish center around noon on Sept. 22, Ron Penny of North Adams was making his second visit that day. Standing at a table of hardcover books priced at one dollar, two tote bags at his feet, Penny said, "I'll be back a few times tomorrow, too."

The octogenarian, who is a retired educator, taught philosophy in schools in France, Britain and Belgium, and was headmaster of an international school in the United States.

"Now I have lots and lots of books of all kinds in my apartment. There's no room to move around." he said as he smiled.

Chrystina Parks, of Williamstown, was holding a cardboard box as she browsed books. "This is a great opportunity; great books, great authors," the photographer and filmmaker said.

Bob Fortini, of North Adams, age 84, was with his wife, Peg, and his niece, Roberta Curran, who lives in Williamstown. He was looking for "Westerns" and books by best-selling author James Patterson.

Roberta said she chooses certain authors' work and books with catchy titles. "After reading them, I pass them on or donate them for the next book sale."

"I read anything," Peg said. "I like coming to the book sale because it's like coming to a party. You meet people you know and chat."

Not everyone had time to socialize. Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts sophomore Owen Fitzgerald came to the book sale "between classes. I'm not looking for anything connected to my studies," he said. "I want something I can just enjoy."

Said Desmaris, the sale's chairwoman: "People stock up on books for the winter. 'Snowbirds' bring the books back to Florida."

The silent auction included The Beatles Anthology, 10 episodes of Ken Burns documentary "Jazz" and a coffee table book titled "Diana," all of which were too large for a 5-year-old I met at the book sale to carry. That little girl was holding in her hand a very small book titled "Snowman" she had selected for her baby sister. Meanwhile her grandfather was holding a book she had selected for herself.

Only once did I chose a book because of its size. I was a junior high school student then, and had yet to write a book report that was due in three days. I decided to read "Kon Tiki" which contained 200 small pages. Fortunately, I completed the assignment as required.

Bringing the Friends book sale to fruition is certainly a challenging endeavor. Volunteers give selflessly of their time and energy to that end, but Desmaris mentioned an intangible reward: "It makes you feel good to know that people are still reading books — print books."

Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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