Sorting through the stacks at library’s annual book sale

By Bethany Knipp

From Barbara Delinsky and John Grisham to J.R.R. Tolkien and the most obscure authors, a lot of great reads will be available for purchase at the Manhattan Public Library’s annual book sale this weekend.

And cheap, of course: All of the books are priced at $1.50 and under.

The book sale starts Friday evening with more than 100,000 books for browsers to check out. The event is expected to draw thousands of people.

“I think last year we had in the neighborhood of 4,000,” said library public relations coordinator Danielle Schapaugh.

The sale is a yearly fundraiser, allowing the library to buy new materials and pay for some programs, including those for children.

As library volunteers buzzed between the building’s basement storage room and the second floor auditorium on Thursday, it was clear the staff is expecting a frenzy.

The books on sale have been donated by members the community or simply are items the library is moving out to make room for new material. 

Gary Jeffrey, chair of the book sale, said that last year the fundraiser generated about $10,000.

But the sale is more than just a fundraiser. There’s literary treasure to be discovered.

“There are always gems and jewels and treasures to be found,” Jeffrey said. “That’s why people get excited when they come to the book sale.”

Jeffrey said mystery and romance are popular genres for the sale. There’s nearly a full room of the library dedicated to them.

But there’s also some fascinating non-fiction, including “Remembering Woolworth’s: A Nostalgic History of the World’s Most Famous Five-and-Dime” by Karen Plunkett-Powell, published in 1999; and even a short story section where shoppers can find “Best of Young British Novelists 2003,” published by Granta Magazine.

The sale has local works as well, including a cookbook called: “What’s Cookin? in Shady Brook” - compiled by the Immanuel Lutheran Ladies Aid in Herington and published in 1978 in Lenexa.

Even Jeffrey said he’s looking for treasure.

He’s hoping that one day someone will donate a copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s first publication, “Tamerlane and Other Poems,” from 1827.

Rumors have circulated that there were less than 50 copies published of Poe’s first work.

That could be true, because in 2009 a copy was sold to an anonymous collector for $662,500, which broke the record for most expensive piece of American literature.

“There’s always a chance something like that might come in,” Jeffrey said.

If the rarity does turn up, it likely would catch the eye of the library’s volunteer sorter Wilma Schmeller, who is also chair for Rosie’s Corner.

Schmeller said when books are received from the public, the viable ones go to the first-floor entrance of the library — called Rosie’s Corner — where they’re sold year-round.

If they don’t make it upstairs, they’re boxed floor to ceiling in the basement for the book sale.

On Thursday afternoon, Schmeller and Jeffrey helped coordinate a group of Flint Hills Job Corp volunteers to transport the thousands of books to the auditorium.

Job Corp instructor Norm Dreeszen said his nine students could transport approximately 120,000 books upstairs in about two hours.

With a hundred thousand books, thousands of people and dozens of volunteers, the book sale is a community event where people get to share a piece of themselves by sharing their time and their literature.

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