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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Chapter One Hundred Twenty Five, in which your Bibliothecary shops for Books one last Time

This evening, when the last tent is struck, the book sale put on by the North Shore Chapter of the Brandeis University National Women's Committee every year since 1958 will be history. Though the event offered over 400,000 books, and helped raise up to $300,000 annually for the university, costs are becoming prohibitive and, more importantly, volunteers are becoming scarce.

The size of this sale means it is a year-long project. Volunteers are needed to collect, sort, and store books continually. When the time comes, books need to be moved and displayed, then maintained and tallied for the thousands of book-fanciers who flock to the big tents. Regular volunteers have aged beyond these capabilities, and the numbers of new volunteers are few.

We have attended this huge sale all but one of the last eight years, and it has always been something to look forward to. Typically the sale runs nine days, and our attendance was always on the first Monday, after the crowds subsided, and the out-of-towners have returned home. There has always been a good selection of books still available after the opening weekend, and we would usually spend about four hours filling a shopping cart. This year, however, travel had taken us in the vicinity of the sale on the opening weekend, and so we take you back to Sunday, 11 June.

There were considerably more people than during the week. The line to get inside just before opening stretched around three sides of one circus-sized tent. Still, this sale accomodates the crowd easily, with books displayed on large sturdy tables spaced wide apart so people can pass with two shopping carts and still leave room for browsers on either side. The books occupy two of the huge tents, and there is a smaller tent for sorting, and a medium-sized tent for checkout. By the time we had our cart full, the line to check out was forty-five minutes long. Several people (or perhaps one person several times) were overheard saying the crowds were "the worst they have ever seen in their life." We presumed they meant that the number of people was the most ever seen at this book sale. Of course, this is a charity event, not meant as a service to book-fanciers, or to offer good books at low prices, but to raise money for the cause of education, so we think it would be more appropriate for people to look beyond their personal experience to observe that turnout for this event was the best ever seen.

We did not mourn the closing of this event. We did, however, think: every year this group collects close to a half-million books donated by the community; and wonder: where would all those books go in future years? Without a group to collect books, would people simply leave them to rot in their cellar, or throw them in the dumpster? And, unable to turn such a fund-raising project into a full-time career, was there something we could possibly do to help ensure these books still had a place to go?

Flash back not quite so far to Friday, 16 June. Palatine's Little City Foundation announces it will be taking over operation of the labor-intensive fund-raiser. They will use the same storage facility, and hope to pitch the grand tents in the same location. The books are saved!

Now look to the future and mark your calendars for the first week in June 2007. We will see you there.

1 comment:

  1. I am so happy to see you have returned and are again writing your blog. I have missed reading about your adventures and ideas. K