Library hopes for a happy ending with annual used book sale

Monday August 13, 2012

LENOX -- At least 20,000 books, DVDs and CDs -- all selling for a buck, give or take. One of the county's biggest used-book sales is set for the Lenox Library later this month.

Ilse Browner, who organizes the sale with Maureen Hammel, said the major fundraiser for the town library may net over $30,000 this year, "but it's so weather-dependent." She noted that Tropical Storm Irene washed out a day of last year's sale, cutting exp ected proceeds in half to about $15,000.

Only items in good conditions are acc epted -- about 10,000 were turned down for various reasons.

"The book business in general is different," she acknowledg ed, noting that some dealers no longer att end because of slackening de mand for print editions compared to e-books. Browner also asserted that Internet book sellers, notably Amazon, have "depressed" prices.

"We can't sell a $40 book for $7.50 the way we used to," she explained, "because Amazon may offer it for $1.99."

But, she said, true book lovers still flock to the sale, which she first organized in 1996 for a haul of $500. Proceeds in 2010, nearly $29,000, were 50 percent higher than in 2003.

The sale runs from 2-6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 24, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 25-26. Admission is free. For a $5 donation, early birds can get the best of the bunch during a three-hour preview beginning at 11 a.m. Friday.

"We still have so many users who are telling us they want real books," said the library's executive director, Sharon Hawkes. "A lot of parents want books that they can turn pages for a child. That's an experience all its own. People love the feel of a book."

Hawkes noted that book-sale prices, 50 cents for a paperback or $1.50 for a hardcover, are lower than any e-edition. All materials for sale were donated.

"It's one of our largest fundraising events of the year," Hawkes pointed out. "I think of it as very important, and as a service for a lot of people who tell us they buy books for their casual reading during the year, rather than borrow from the library, and then donate them right back the following year."

There are 38 categories for browsers, with cookbooks, children's, art, biography, mountaineering and fiction titles among the most popular. Donations are still being taken.

The town library has already raised $92,000 from its annual appeal, above projections, Hawkes said. "We're very pleased," she added. The library gets 48 percent of its budget from the town; the rest comes from donations and fees.

"We've contained costs and brought everything back under control," Hawkes said, but she's exploring new methods of raising revenue and cutting costs -- though cutting hours is not on the table. The library has eight and a half full-time equivalent employees, stable since 2010 after several years of declines.

To contact Clarence Fanto: or (413) 496-6247. On Twitter: @BE_cfanto.


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