WILLIAMSTOWN -- Classrooms in Williamstown Elementary School will be empty the third week in April as students enjoy spring break, but the gymnasium will be a hive of activity.
The Friends of the David & Joyce Milne Public Library will host their 25th annual book sale, silent auction and café at the Williamstown Elementary School gymnasium Friday, April 19 and Saturday, April 20. Hours for both days are 10 a.m to 4 p.m.
Volunteers will be busy in the gymnasium Tuesday through Thursday, bringing in 1,200 boxes filled with books, setting up tables and generally preparing for the sale.
"We started planning for this year's book sale during last year's book sale," said Ginny Sheldon, who together with Susan Pike is co-chair of the event. "Volunteers are the backbone of the book sale. We have a master list of about 225 people who help. This does not include Williams College students who volunteer as teams or individuals during pre-sale, the sale itself or post-sale clean up."
Through the efforts of volunteers, the Williamstown Elementary School gym will be transformed into a book lover's delight. Approximately 25,000 high-quality used books representing 42 genres will be neatly displayed on tables, according to category. Prices range from $.50 for an average paperback to $3 for a pristine hardcover book with a dust jacket.
Oversized or gift quality books may be priced higher.
Maribeth Pomerantz, one of the 14 members of the Friends Board and volunteer for the book sale, has noticed that young students go to the classic literature table, "because they know they should read the classics," she said. "High school teachers and high school students come in with lists of reading material."
The silent auction includes signed first editions, rare privately printed books, uniquely illustrated books and a complete 59 volumes of Harvard Classics from 1937. Art lovers might prefer to bid on "The Paintings and Drawings of Matisse," 1939. Bids must be in by 2 p.m. on Saturday.
A large selection of media - CDs and DVDs - will be offered at low prices, beginning at $.50.
If thirst or hunger strikes when people are not ready to leave the sale, they need only visit the café where coffee, lunch and delectable baked goods will be available throughout sale days.
"The book sale ushers in spring," Pomerantz said. "After a long winter, people like to chat with each other at the book sale. It is more than a fund-raiser; it is a community get-together. Even the volunteers have fun."
Pomerantz, pointed out that many of the volunteers are very committed and come back year after year. "We have a common goal as an institution that all of us believe in so strongly - and share a love of books," she said.
Some volunteers who sort and price the donated books bring their own particular expertise to the task, said Sheldon. For instance, a staff member of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute prices art books. This year, for the first time, a workshop introduced volunteers to sorting.
As longtime volunteers Larry Wright and Carol Thomas sorted book, they mentioned that most donated books are in good condition. Sorters weed out any books that are not in good shape.
Of determining the genre of a book, Wright said, "Sometimes you are familiar with a book, other times you need to read the (synopsis) on the dust jacket or more.
New volunteers are always welcome and need not fear they will be overwhelmed. "We respect volunteers time and role," Pike said. "They stay knowing they are not going to be overloaded."
In the celebratory spirit of the Friends' 25th anniversary, there will be an addition to the book sale: a raffle for an iPad2. "Local business organizations are supporting the raffle," Pike said. Tickets are $2 each or $3 for two, and may be purchased at the circulation desk of the Milne Library, from Friends of the Library board members or at the book sale.
The book sale generates approximately two thirds of the Friends of the Library revenue, and the net proceeds of the sale are contributed to the library. "Each year, the Friends of the Milne Library gives at least $25,000 toward collections, programming, equipment, staff development, and other needs which arise," said Sheldon.
Another source of the Friends' income is an annual membership drive and the Book Nook at the library, where used books are sold at prices they would have been offered at in the book sale.
The giant book sales of the past 10 years developed from a humble beginning in the year the Friends of the Library was founded.
According to Annette Jenks, former director of the Williamstown Public Library (1971-1983), "The idea of forming a Williamstown Library Friends group started from the recession in the l980s that affected library budgets across the state."
Chairman of the Milne Library Board of Trustees, Jurgen Thomas, now deceased, who had been involved in starting a Friends group at the Berkshire Athenaeum when he had been a resident of Pittsfield, suggested that a Friends of the Library be formed for the Williamstown Library.
Thomas's suggestion came to fruition with "the Friends of the Library incorporation being achieved, thanks to the pro bono legal services of Attorney Tom McHugh," as recorded in minutes of the Friends' meeting of Dec. 1, 1989.
The Friends' first book sale was held in 1989 under a tent on the grounds of the Botsford House, where the library was situated. It is believed that the books were mostly leftovers from a so-called Sisters Book Sale conducted by women in town who were Smith College alumnae. The tent was loaned by Hopkins Furniture Company. Tables were loaned and delivered by Williams College Facilities.
In the Williamstown Public Library Annual Report of 1989, it is noted that the sale netted a profit of $1,733, creating a healthy treasury for the fledgling (Friends) organization.
By the end of 1994, the Friends had $23,000 in the treasury, and had purchased a fax machine, vacuum cleaner, and video display systems for the library. Former Friends president Midge Safford is quoted in minutes of a meeting as saying, "Most importantly the Friends had been instrumental in getting the town to vote in favor of accepting the gift of the former Pine Cobble School as a new library location." The book sale was held in the future library in 1995, grossing $15,000.
Since 2003, the book sale has been held in the WES gymnasium at 115 Church Street.
"We are thrilled to have such a great home for the sale, with wide open floor space, natural lighting and a cafeteria that allows us to create a festive atmosphere and a fun outing for book lovers of any age," said current Friends of the Library president Stephen Dravis.