Library book sale swag
Posted on 26 October 2013
Our swag in the back of the car.
We're pretty much unable to avoid the pull of any book sale, so when we saw our local library was having its annual sale, we popped in to have a look. The best library sales are pure chaos, and this one was no exception. We walk into a dank room that smelled of mildew and stale cigarette smoke from the seventies. A baby wails somewhere in the crowd. A man babbles on about Kurt Vonnegut...to himself. The room is too congested, too hot. Women stuff reusable grocery sacks full of romance novels, not even looking at the titles, just grabbing wide handfuls of colorful spines.
Usually wary of intimate crowds, I jump in. There are treasures to be found among the dozens of copies of Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey. Halfway down a row, I notice a furious beeping from throughout the room. Men and women with handheld scanners move quickly from book to book scanning each barcode with a device hooked up to their iPhones. Most books were immediately put down, but when a certain tone is heard, the book is put into a huge canvas bag slung over slumped shoulders. It's mechanical, mercenary. It reduces the books to dollars and cents, and it felt vaguely undignified. One of the guys scanning catches me looking at him, his eyes dead. He immediately looks down and resumes picking up, scanning, picking up, scanning. He might as well be scanning tomatoes at a grocery store.
In a Hemingway book I find a yellowed love letter from 1956. A nice old lady asks if she can take my heaping pile up to the front. I hand them over and hear her groan softly. The Meerkat tracks me down and convinces me I've seen everything, and we make our way out to the car. I tell her about my prized finds, a book of John Singer Sargent portraits and Devils, Drugs and Doctors: The Story of Medicine and the Curiosities of Medical Practice, a richly illustrated bizarro history book of early medicine from 1929. She shows me her finds. We look for a bathroom to wash the old book smell off our hands. It was a good way to kill thirty minutes and twenty bucks. - Matt