Annual library book sale aims to find homes for 15,000 books

July 29, 2018

The Portage Public Library is preparing for the annual smorgasbord of literary delights that is the Friends of the Portage Public Library Book Sale.

“It overflowed this year, so it is going to be huge,” said Portage Public Library Director Emily Goad. “And I know that the book sale has grown over the years, but I think this is a reflection of that. We got so many contributions this year, so we’re really excited.”

On Friday afternoon volunteers were sorting books across folding tables in the library’s Bidwell Room, representing only a taste what would be on offer when the sale opens Wednesday to Friends of the Library members only, and Thursday morning to the general public. The sale ends Saturday afternoon.

“We’re just beginning today the sorting process,” said Friends of the Library member and book sale chair Marvin Jensen. “The tables have been coming in this morning from the fairgrounds, so this has been tight scheduling. We are underway.”

The real show will be Monday morning, Jensen said, with the rest of the books coming in from an off-site storage unit, to be brought over between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

“I’m sure that we have well over 15,000 books and we have more children’s book than we have ever had, and we have more cookbooks than we have ever had,” said Jensen.

The event has been growing for many years according to Jensen, who surmised it had been ongoing for the better part of 30 years.

In previous years, one wall had been split between reference books and cook books, but this year a full wall will be devoted to culinary arts.

“It’s a year for anyone who may be interested in cook books—this is their year,” said Jensen.

For the most part, books will be priced $1 for hardcover and 50 cents for paperbacks, with some rare exceptions for individually priced items.

Last year the sale brought in about $7,000 according to Goad, with that donation separate from the library’s $715,000 annual budget. While the budgeted income covers overall maintenance and operational costs, donations from the Friends of the Portage Public Library help in special projects and renovation.

The book sale is significant for the library as a fundraising source, and specifically for the Friends, as the event accounts for around half its revenue for the year.

“They do all of the work--we’re very, very lucky to have them,” said Goad.

On Friday Jensen was working with a handful of volunteers, but over the course of the year, he estimated about 70 volunteers help make the sale happen.

“And the library staff deserves a great deal of credit because we are taking up one of their hallways with the books that come in all the time before they can be sorted,” said Jensen. “There are 35 categories, so everything has to be placed in the right category and then certain categories we sort by author, so that takes time.”

Along with thousands of books, this year’s stock also includes CDs, DVDs and vinyl LPs.

“Something that will be new this year is that they will be selling book bags,” said Goad, “Friends of the Library book bags and they are gorgeous and I think they are only $3 each.”

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