Monday, May 12, 2014

Farewell to an old library friend

I'm a used-media addict, someone who drops in at Manifest Records and The Last Word to cheer himself up with old CDs or DVDs when he's feeling low. (The high you get lasts longer than the one that comes from liquor. It's cheaper, too.)

I used to start drooling a week ahead of the annual Friends of the Library blowout, where volunteers took over an empty store or office for a week and filled it with used books and other media. I never spent less than $75 to $100, filling paper sacks with books, music and films I enjoyed all year (and often donated to be sold again).

So I was saddened to see that those are "on hiatus," a term I equate with "dead." They have been replaced by pop-up book sales, one of which I attended Saturday morning at Atherton Mill. The volunteers were as friendly as ever, but the pickings were slim: Half a dozen outdoor tables about the size of the one in my dining room, augmented by boxes of books underneath.

A volunteer told me one early buyer had found an autographed autobiography of Muhammad Ali, the day's big score. Other offerings were modest: A few classics (including "How Green Was My Valley" and an omnibus of Leslie Charteris' Saint stories, both now on my bookshelf), some current mysteries mixed in with older gems, a biography table, one table full of kids' books. A box about the size of a hardback dictionary held a dozen DVDs and one compact disc, the soundtrack from "Forrest Gump."

A volunteer explained that these pop-ups make it possible for the library to serve people around the county more easily; the next comes June 21 at Birkdale Village. I wondered at that: Was it really too hard for people to drive 15 miles to Charlotte once a year for the city's best media bargains? The big sales lasted a week, providing many opportunities to shop and reconsider things you'd skipped the first time. This sale lasted four hours, and rain would have washed it out completely.

The larger problem, he explained, was the enormous amount of labor required under the old system to get media from the storage facility, load it into the empty space, repack the unsold items and cart them away. I do sympathize with that.

Maybe the availability of used items on the Internet also decreased demand at library sales. But the Internet works best if you know what you want, and the beauty of the library sale was that you could find things you never knew existed. There's no treasure as great as the one you come across by accident, and that's going to be a lot less common these days.


Anonymous said...

Many of the libraries have on going sales

Shamash said...

Maybe the libraries could put their inventory on the internet for browsing.