Archives For library book sales

There has been a heat wave in Connecticut this week, temperatures in the high 90s with muggy, sultry, humid weather, so it was no surprise that the bargains were “hot, hot, hot” under the tent at the Westport Public Library Book Sale.  So hot, in fact, that organizers had large fans set up in some of the outdoor tents! The sale is held in Westport, Connecticut:

Tents on Jesup Green and inside the Library
July 20-23, 2013
(Monday—Everything half-price)
Tuesday: 9 am-1 pm (Free day, donations appreciated)

The Westport Public Library Book Sale is a premiere event in the state for several reasons:

  • The tents are huge with tables laden with books;
  • Prices are good (Hardcovers are $3/trades $1/paperbacks and children’s books $.50);
  • Books are of exceptionally high quality.

The main tent offered a spectacular number of books with wide aisles. This is where the non-fiction texts/literature/reference texts are usually laid out.

Informational texts for science classes!

Informational texts for science classes!

For some perplexing reason, however, the teen/YA section was also in the main tent, while the sports/nature books were in the children’s tent. This led to some mistaken shelving; there was a copy of fairy tales and Miss Nelson is Missing in between golf books and some travel guides. The magnitude of the collection of donated books meant some challenges for those  keeping book sorters on message; sometimes the same text appeared on tables for different genres. For example, copies of Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation were in biography, history, politics, and for some inexplicable reason, Judaica.

The children’s book section was extensive enticing shoppers of all ages; shoppers should be wary of smaller patrons underfoot.

My target area for filling the classroom shelves was the tent for fiction, which was overflowing with hardcovers and paperbacks. There were so many hardcover fiction books, that I later discovered an adjunct aisle of hardcover fiction that spilled into the classic literature section in the main tent. I am sure that The Girl Who Played with Fire was enjoying spending time with her more mature cousins Ethan Frome and The Red Badge of Courage.

Unfortunately, the aisles in the smaller fiction tent here were not as wide as in the main tent, and there were boxes loaded with trade paperback fiction below the tables. Stooping to browse through these lower levels slows down buyers and makes for some awkward moments in passing. To make passing smoother, though, there was a volunteer dutifully loading up the tables once people made their selections.


One stack of The Help for English III

I was looking for specific titles and soon was rewarded with a dozen copies of Katheryn Stockett’s The Help. This book retails for $12.92 on Amazon; 12 copies would have cost $155.04. Instead, I spent $73.50 in total for these books plus three and a half bags full of other titles, many also beginning with word “the”: The Things They Carried, The Road, The Giver, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, and The Book Thief. 

Because the trademark of Westport readers is their ability to take exceptionally good care of their books, these copies are in pristine condition. I suspect there must be some town ordinance about bending pages or preserving book covers on reading material in town.

A further study of the town, based on donated books, would be that Westport residents:

  • Believe in parenting book (five tables full);
  • Do not donate small paperback copies (only three tables full);
  • Do not read the genre “romance” (no tables full);
  • Travel extensively (based on travel guides);

The book sale has dedicated volunteers who will tally books on the side lawns of the main tent if you are purchasing more than an armful; there are boxes available for ambitious shoppers and checkout is a breeze.

The Westport book sale is a bibliophile’s delight with red hot bargains for all ages. Now, if only they could do something about this heat wave!

As the first semester begins to draw to a close, I need to check in and see what progress the 9th grade students are making with Silent Sustained Reading (SSR). Our school’s move to a block schedule (A/B) days of 83 minute classes has given us the opportunity to provide students with 10-20 minutes of SSR every English class period. I try very hard not to put any restriction on what students read, although I still urge them to try and “read up” to more complicated texts. I wrote about the rationale for this program in a previous post, “Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet…We’re Reading”.

To facilitate the SSR program, there are two carts in the room with books I have purchased through the secondary market, mostly thrift stores and public library book sales (hence the title of the blog “Used Books in Class”). Each cart holds about 150 books; at $1-$2 a book, I have spent about $500 on the 300 books available for SSR.

A wide selection

A wide selection

The most popular titles in circulation these past few months have been:

Lauren Myracle’s TTFN and TTYL
John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice (any one in the series)
Catherine Gilbert Murdock ‘s Dairy Queen
Gabrielle Zevin’s Elsewhere
Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones
Patricia McCormack’s Cut
Carl Deuker’s Gym Candy
S. A. Bodeen’s The Compound
Sarah Dressen’s  Dreamland
Nicholas Sparks’s Dear John
Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games Trilogy (pick any one of these; they are on EVERYONE’S shelf)

The students are keeping their responses to the books they read on the Shelfari website this year. This is a commercial site tied to the retail giant Amazon, but there are ways to lock down the private groups we have established for each class. Last year, we used Blogger, but there were some glitches with Internet Explorer and Blogger; unless we used a browser like Firefox, the pages kept jumping and commenting was impossible. When students are on the Shelfari site, they can see what other students in the class are reading, and posting titles they have read or plan on reading is really easy. In addition, there are already reviews of the books, so students are forced to add something original to a review of the book. They can read recommendations (for and against the text) and they can participate in a discussion.

This morning I posted the following discussion prompt on Shelfari:

You have had 16 weeks of SSR in class-most of the time with your choice of reading materials.
Tell me how you are progressing as a reader. Are you finding enough materials to read? Have you read at least ONE good book? Are you a better reader now that you were in September? Why or why not?

Some of the responses made my teacher’s heart pound proudly:

Over the past 16 weeks of SSR, I’ve probably read 5 or 6 books. Some of them were short, but some were a reasonable length. I’ve really been enjoying the SSR time we’ve been getting because the quiet period of time we get is really beneficial to my reading skills.

I am progressing in my reading. So far I have read three books this year. I am finding plenty to read. I have found many good books, including “Prom & Prejudice” and “Awkward”. I feel I am a better reader than I was in September because I am reading more difficult books than I was before and in September.

Yes I am better reader because last year I read even slower than I do now and I understand more because of the vocabulary words. I am finding enough materials to read. A good book I read this year was Miracle on 49th Street, this was good because it was a very suspenseful book.

But then, there are the honest appraisals that make me concerned about how students select books and a student’s ability to stay focused in a class for 10-20 minutes:

I’m an average speed reader, but I tend to get distracted. I’ve read a lot of good books, but they were in a lot of different genres. It’s hard for me to find books that interest me lately. I feel that my reading skills have changed a little, I’ve been able to understand things a little more.

During the past 16 weeks of SSR I haven’t really improved very much with my reading. I have only finished one book and I am working on another the first was a pretty good length and didn’t take long to read and the other is pretty long. I am a slow reader and I also just never find the time to sit down and read my book. Also, I get distracted while reading my book sometimes, so I haven’t progressed very much in the weeks of SSR.

And then, there are the even more painfully honest appraisals:

I’m a really really slow reader, and tend to get very distracted while reading, so I have a hard time making lots of progress in books. Books that are available to me don’t interest me. There was only one book that I’ve read and liked in my whole life; but there are no sequels. No I’m not a better reader, my reading skills never change, I’m always a slow and easily distracted reader.

The quiet time in SSR may not be “quiet” enough for some students, so I need to think about the physical space being more reader friendly. Apparently, I also need to have some students develop an understanding of what they like to read, and see how I can get those books onto my book carts.

Success with SSR is monitored through student self-appraisal, so I will be checking back in a few months to see if students note any changes in how they are reading. If nothing else, I know that there is power in the shared quiet reading experience we have twice or three times a week. When their heads are bent down in a book, I can feel them read.

The book room at Wamogo Middle/High School will need to be reorganized to make room for recent arrivals from sales in two very different locations: Greenwich, CT and Poughkeepsie, NY. Books purchased need to be integrated onto the shelves with their companion sets of titles.

The Greenwich library sale is a physical challenge; little aisle space!

The first infusion of texts came last weekend (June 8-10, 2012) with The Friends of the Byram Shubert Library book sale in Greenwich, CT.The layout for the Greenwich sale is very challenging. Like last year, there was little room to pass a fellow shopper at the non-fiction tables downstairs in the church basement, but there is less room at the fiction tables in the “garage” area back up at ground level. Books spill out into the driveway, and there are many packed tightly in boxes under the already overflowing tables. Sunday is the “fill a bag for $3.00” or “fill a box for $5.00” day, a sales pitch that almost guarantees there will be few books remaining at the close of sale on Sunday evening.  The volunteer staff is very helpful and tries to compete for the negative floor space in order to straighten the tables. Titles were originally well organized for genre shopping: history, psychology, biography, sports, and cookbooks, but by the end of the day, a multitude of children’s books was spilling naughtily out of their contained space. One volunteer repeated the mantra that “every book will be sold”, and apparently this is true. At the conclusion of the sale, a recycling company arrives to take the unsold books for so much a pound. While the thought of some of the texts being used for scrap can be a bit disconcerting for a bibliophile, this wholesale purge of any remaining books assures that every year the used books will not be “leftovers” and shoppers can select from a fresh selection annually.

Texts from the Greenwich Library sale June 2012: above books purchased for $5.00/box

In one short hour, I  left with five boxes filled with texts we use in the high school. There were many  titles  available that we have collected over the past two years, but our shelves are almost filled to overflowing, so I tried to be judicious in my choices. For example, The Life of Pi and The Memory Keeper’s Daughter are both assigned summer reading for the honors/Advanced Placement program, so having extra copies to distribute is helpful. Additionally, we are collecting texts for use in US History as well, and now have a class set of The Killer Angels. We have been able to keep up with the attrition rate for many of our titles, specifically The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. The creative cover suffers the most damage from my curious sophomores who like to trace the dog cut-out.

On the following Friday (6/15/2012) , school had only been officially over for an hour, when I turned west to the first day of the Friends of Poughkeepsie Public Library District in Duchess County, NY. I had never attended this sale, but the advertisement on Book Sale Finder promoted a “BIG sale of 150,000 books and media.” The sale was held in a large warehouse, and true to the advertisement, there were hundreds of rows upon rows of books on tables. The books were well organized,  and there was ample SPACE to shop for books; shopping cart races could be held in the aisles. There were some drawbacks to this location, however. The lighting system emitted a loud buzz that was particularly maddening in the large echoing warehouse; 45 minutes was all I could take of the sound before heading to the cashier’s table. Unlike the Greenwich Library book sale which purges unwanted texts, the Friends of the Poughkeepsie Library appear to have kept every book ever donated. The boxes clearly labelled “fiction”, “sports”, etc. under each table identified the resting area for texts the other 51 weekends of the year.  This commitment to find a home for every text, no matter the condition or the content, means  a shopper must look peruse through piles of yellowing, damaged books in the hopes of finding a particular title. No matter, I filled three bags of books at the usual price of $1.00 trade, $2.00 hardcover, and $.50 for smaller paperbacks. On Sunday, prices are cut in half;  on Monday, one can fill a grocery bag for $5.00;  and  Tuesday, from 8A.M. to 12 Noon, leftovers are free for the taking. In looking at the selection on the “classics” table, I determined that Poughkeepsie area schools must also assign To Kill a Mockingbird; there were five new copies available. The best title “finds” on the tables were In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason for the grade 11 Vietnam War unit and Perfume by David Susskind for a new English IV course being offered this coming fall titled “Heroes and Monsters”. Apparently, the Duchess County area clearly went through its William Kennedy phase, favoring his upstate NY setting because there were no less than 27 copies of Ironweed available on the fiction tables along with his companion books Legs, and Billy Bathgate. Alas, there were no Joyce Carol Oates texts to support a rabid NY author fan base. After the sale, we stopped at the Daily Planet Diner (Route 55 off the Taconic), with all its kitchy thematic elements, to round out the end of the last day of school and the first day of summer vacation.

Funds spent over the two weekends were $25.00 at Greenwich and $49.50 at Poughkeepsie bringing the grand total  to$74.50. Total number of texts purchased? 117 books.

Over the course of the academic year, English teachers have been integrating the numerous used books purchased through library book sales into classroom libraries; some books have been offered as independent choice books while others have been used as whole class reads. Once the school year ended, we stacked the returned texts back into our hidden book room where access, strangely enough, is gained by going through a bathroom. Based on this latest haul, we may have to order another set of book shelves!