From Lending to Selling: What a Booksale Says About Its Readers

July 31, 2019

Ever since the Evanston Public Library ceased its regular book sale on the third floor, we’ve had to deal with the constant influx of donations we receive in new ways. To deal with the bulk of the donations, for example, we placed a large green Better World Books bin on the side of the building where our alleyway is located. The bin is a Donations Only affair (which doesn’t stop some folks from “donating” their library books, from time to time, I’m afraid) where you can dump all those books that you don’t want to keep but haven’t the heart to recycle. Next, there are the donations that are dropped into our library returns bins. These are routed to me and I consider them for the collection. If they’re in pristine shape, I might compare them to the books on our shelves and see whether or not they could supplement or replace our more battered copies. If, however, they aren’t quite up to snuff, into the Book Sale area on the first floor they go.

Now for a long time the Book Sale room on the library’s first floor was a somewhat morose affair. Empty shelves would just sit there. Our scant donations couldn’t keep up with the demands of those Evanstonians that love to buy books of all types. What could the solution be?

The happy answer came in the form of our own collections. Recently I have discovered that we have books on our shelves that haven’t circulated in six, seven, eight, even nine or ten YEARS. These titles make it difficult for folks to find the books that people really do want to read. Even so, they’re not bad books. They deserve good homes. What to do? Well, why not sell some of the more interesting titles in the Book Sale Room? That’s why you’ll find it nice and filled these days. Walk in and there’s bound to be something in there that interests you.

Of course, just as I’ve watched the reading interests of the Evanston community with my circulating collection, now I’m watching what they prefer to read from the book sale collection. Some books and DVDs will sit there forever, untouched. Other books, no matter how esoteric they sound to me, will disappear in a day. Travel books, no matter how old, fly off the shelves. Diet books?  Not so much. Academic journals, to my surprise, go out pretty frequently. What about critical examinations of literary figures? So-so.

The most I can say about Evanston is that considering the materials I put into that room every day, I am consistently impressed by how many are taken for personal use. Evanston is a reading community, and it shows this whether the books are meant to be bought, borrowed, or bandied about at parties.

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Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.