It felt more like a rock concert than a book sale as some people stood in line up to 10 hours waiting to get a long sought after special item. ”It had a very festive vibe,” Peter Petruski, Book Sales Manager said. “It’s amazing how people enjoy coming.”
Jamie Krovontka, a FOAL Board member, adds booksellers come from out-of-state, and they are there early. She says they bring in a good amount of revenue. One out-of-stater left with $4,000 worth of books. Krovontka adds other customers often come in with a special category they are interested in, like history buffs that are really into the military, and they rush right to that shelf.
Diane Kresh, director of the Arlington Public Libraries, has noticed that people seem to have returned a lot of good fiction, not the usual suspects, but literary books. Kresh says people were probably reading these books during Covid and now they are returning them, and other people are grabbing them up. Kresh says she has been director of the libraries for 17 years, and they were having these book sales well before she came.
Laura Porter, another FOAL Board member says, “I was surprised the first time I did the sale how many niche customers we have at these sales like the person today who left with about 15 books about birds and bird calls.” And scattered around the ends of the shelfs are rotating displays of “impulse” buying that entice many people. One customer who was riding down to the garage in the elevator confessed, “I’m looking for more books I don’t need in my house—anything and everything.”
FOAL began accumulating books Nov. 1, 2022 when Marty Pippins, Book Sale Director, says they start at ground zero. He says all books are donated. By the time the sale began April 20, Pippins says they had around 1,500 boxes that translate into close to 50,000 books.
Pippins says the process of setting up the book sale began on Monday when they loaded the shelves and tables and set them up. He explains they have 83 book carts with 4 shelves each, double-sided. Tuesday morning they unloaded the books from the cage in back of the garage where the books had been stored. “We had 800 boxes on the floor of the garage.”
On Wednesday it took 40-45 volunteers to unpack the books and load them on the shelves in one of the 48 categories ranging from Animals to World Languages. The last category, Valuable Books, was kept in the Quincy Room on the 1st floor of the Library. Once in a while Pippins says they had a tricky book to place. “There is no drama category so where do you put that book?” At the end of Wednesday, he says, they had everything ready for Thursday.
Pippins points out that hardback books are $4 and soft cover $2 and children’s $1 but there is a special deal for teachers who get half price. “Teachers come in and sometimes buy 70-80 books for the classroom.” He guesses that routinely people leave with 3-4 boxes of books in the range of $10-30.
So you may have taken home your neighbor’s books this weekend or they may have taken home yours. Kresh says, “We call this the largest running community recycling program in Arlington.”