One Heck Of A Good Library Sale

- by Karen Wright


Tent sale in Palo Alto.

The next morning, at the crack of 8:30 a.m. we rolled on over to the nearby Cubberly Community Center, a huge former school that has been turned into a community center where each classroom houses a different art or craft or book organization; we parked in front of the dance school where all the cute little kids were prancing around in their tutus. They actually have a fair amount of parking and in the shade, too.

Palo Alto Friends eases you into the sale by having it in three increments. First, you get a number for the "good books" from a delightful volunteer named Cathy Bradford. She has a sunny smile, a cheerful attitude, an eclectic way of dressing, and has been with FOPAL for just over two years. She is the "section head" for four small sections; Curious Books, Signed Books, Antique and Collectible Books, and Greeting Cards. The purpose of the numbers is that when the time comes at 11 a.m. for the Main Room to open, you haven't had to stand in line for two or three hours getting cranky as hell, as you might with most of the library sales we've been to.

Then at 9 a.m. they whet your appetite by having an outside tent book sale with all books priced at $1.00, and some very nice books, ephemera, prints, and assorted odds and ends there are, too! At 10 a.m. they send you a half block down the nearby driveway to another classroom full of the next best books at $1 each – shelves and shelves of them on every possible subject.

About 10:45 you stagger back, laden with bags and boxes of books, towards the main room and get in line according to number. At 11:00 sharp, the first 150 people, who by now are revved and ready to bolt, get in (we were 146 and 147) and have an hour to shop, with a limit of twelve books each, before they can buy unfettered by time constraints from noon on. We chose our twenty-four books carefully, paid for them, and then rushed back to begin a more minute perusal in the sections. Everything is very nicely arranged, they have maps to each section, and the volunteers are very knowledgeable, good natured, and helpful.

At high noon, they open the "glass cases" of collectibles and high end books. One must sign up for this, and I was very lucky in that I had put my name on the top of the list when we first came in the door, so I got to snoop first. Of course, I had already looked in the case for the "Manly Art of Knitting," and woe is me, it was not there. I asked Jerry, the store manager, if that book had been purchased. He said he would check and the darling man went into the back and found the book which had accidentally been put online with Amazon. He deleted it from their Amazon books and gave it to me at a discounted price since I was a member of FOPAL and they didn't have to pay Amazon's exorbitant commission. They really were very, very nice people. It has been my experience with Friends organizations that many of the volunteers will not make any type of deviation from their very strict rules, but I think Jerry took pity on us because we had come all the way from Virginia City for that particular book.