The 54th annual Pequot Library Book Sale started Friday morning with a bang -- as always -- when a cannon was shot off to mark the opening of the library's biggest fundraiser.
Dealers and collectors from around the state and New England rushed into the large tents set up on the library's Great Lawn for the harried start of the five-day sale, one of the largest in the Northeast. They were searching for their particular literary specialties: autographed books, books on a particular topic, CDs and records.
Dealer Holly Mason from Canton and her husband, Al, made their way immediately to the books in the "Transportation" category. That table was one of the most popular in the first minutes of the sale. Such books sell well, she said. "They are `boy-toy' books," she said, including books on cars, motorcycles and airplanes.
Ryan Knaggs, a book dealer from Newtown and former Fairfield resident, was looking specifically for autographed books, he said as he waited with the crowd outside before the sale began.
"It's not uncommon for extremely valuable books to be sold for pennies," he said. Knaggs, who at one time volunteered at the Pequot sale, said he is glad to see that libraries are getting better at determining the true market value of books so that they can use the sales revenue to help subsidize their operations. He was there the first day of the Pequot sale, when the books were marked double price, and planned to return either Sunday or Monday when the prices are cut.
"I'll be trying to find that one book everybody has passed up," he said. This year he picked up a signed diary of author and aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh on the last day of a library book sale in Newtown.
"It's the pleasure of the hunt that I enjoy," he said. "Other men hunt or fish, I hunt books."
Other early Pequot Book sale customers included Peter and Barbara Rzasa of Seymour, who described themselves as are collectors, not dealers. They've been coming to the Pequot sale for about 15 years to find nature books and books on Connecticut history. They give talks on wildflowers and other flora and fauna, and love finding new books on those subjects.
"We always find a treasure," Barbara Rzasa said. "You never know what you're going to find."
The preparation for the sale went well this year, according to Pequot Library's Executive Director Martha Gates Lord. The library's numbering system that allowed buyers to get admission numbers starting the day before the sale has helped keep the opening day orderly, she said.
"This is our largest fundraiser," the library director said, as she surveyed the lines of people, mostly dealers and collectors, waiting for the sale to start. "In past years we have netted over $100,000. That's a significant part of our operating budget."
This year, the library held a special pre-sale of more than 200 "Specials" -- the most rare and sought-after books and other items. A catalog of its special offerings was posted online at www.pequotlibrary.org, the Pequot Library's website, and purchasers were limited to two items per pre-sale. The pre-sale went well, Lord said, and many, but not all, items in that special collection were sold.
Among the other programs the Pequot sponsors as part of the sale is the grant-funded Books for Teachers. More than 300 teachers from Bridgeport and New Haven schools are given vouchers to purchase books at the sale.
A major reason the book sale is so successful is the role the community plays in donating books, Lord added. All of the books and other items on sale are donated -- the library does not buy any to sell. And a cadre of volunteers works all year to sort books and set up the sale. Read Full Article
Volunteer Gloria Evans of Fairfield, wearing the white T-shirt that designates Pequot book sale volunteers, said she has been volunteering at the sale for 11 years. Some years she helps sort books, other years she is a cashier. On opening day this year, she was "a floater," making sure that everything went smoothly.
Evans keeps coming back every year to help for a simple reason: "I'm passionate about books -- passionate," she said.
Pequot Library is at 720 Pequot Ave. For information, visit www.pequotlibrary.org or call 203-259-0346.
The remaining schedule and pricing for the library's 54th annual sale are: Saturday and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., prices are as marked. On Monday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., everthing is half price, and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., is $5-per-bag day.