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‘Good friends’ key to library sales

The first library book sale I went to was in the early 1990s, on a rainy spring morning. At the downtown Spokane Public Library Friends of the Library sale, I tenaciously hunted through boxes, happily snagging favorite hardcover books I couldn’t find in used bookstores.

I scored a terrific bargain – $10 for three big bags of books. Of course, I then had to schlep those heavy bags under drippy skies to my car parked several blocks away. Nevertheless, I was hooked.

These days I don’t go far for library sales, and I get free parking, too, because since 2004 our own volunteer Friends of the Spokane Valley Library group holds book sales every six months. There are few sights as satisfying to a bibliophile as tables loaded with books at prices so low you practically have to look up to find them.

Next Saturday, you can stock up on some good hammock reading for the summer at the Friends sale in the Valley branch basement from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. But head out early, as these sales are popular and people begin asking about them well in advance.

“By 8:30 in the morning 25 to 50 folks, no matter the weather, are lining up at the back door with bags and boxes,” Friends member Lois Harger said. “We have never lacked shoppers.”

About 6,000 books are going for 25 and 50 cents, with coffee table books for $10 or less, and CDs and videos for $1. From 1 to 3 the fantastic Buck a Bag sale, where you can cram a bag with as many books as possible for only $1. Score!

For six months about 30 dedicated Friends collect, sort and box thousands of books by topic, and are helped by other volunteers at each sale.

“We’re most appreciative of the young Mormon elders who assist us as part of their community service each sale, setting up tables and books on Friday afternoon,” Lois said. “Local businesses donate the bags we use for the buck-a-bag sale.”

“People appreciate these sales,” she added, “because Valley citizens donate the books, Valley citizens buy them, and the money goes right back into the community.”

Richard and I, as part of our Sticking Charm Project this year, have donated several boxes of books, including mystery series in pristine condition. It’s fun to give back, as our own shelves hold many library sale books.

The Friends earn about $1,500 per sale and the proceeds cover critical needs outside of the library’s budget. With tough economic times, library use has greatly risen since 2008. Spokane Valley circulation is up 18.5 percent, storytime attendance has increased 26 percent, and teen program attendance has doubled. Every time I go to the library it’s a hive of activity. On a recent morning as I walked into the library behind a mother and her toddler, he asked her, “Is this the place where fun happens?” Yes, kiddo, it sure is.

Maybe you wonder what the book sales support. Have you enjoyed snacks and drinks in a book club or the Summer Reading Program? Interacted with a famous author during Spokane is Reading in October, or attended an ice cream or teen anime club pizza party? Appreciated the computer updates and eye-catching art in the children’s section, and the three comfortable lounge chairs upstairs? The Friends also pay for outreach programs and book packs.

With eReader use rapidly increasing, the library staff gets continual questions about them, so the Friends have provided some Nooks and Kindles for training. I’m grateful; a librarian showed me how to download library materials using my electronic device just last month.

Once the book sale is over and the last happy reader has carried chosen finds out the door, the Friends will donate the best of the remaining books to local nonprofit groups and businesses, and begin their tireless work on the next sale all over again. These folks are amazing.

When it comes to our library, it’s sure good to know that we’ve got some Friends.

You can reach Deborah Chan at tabbytoes@ Previous columns are available at columnists/.


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