Yesterday (March 15th, 2018) was the first day of the Friends of Toronto Public Library Clearance Book Sale over at the Toronto Reference Library. All items, library discards and (here’s the important thing, the key) donated books, most of which are in good, gently used condition: $.10-$.50.
Cents to the dollar.
Best deal in town. Can’t be beat!
See the impetus? Sense the urgency?
- Wake up early.
- Eat pre-breakfast (boiled eggs prepared from the night before).
- Make sure phone fully charged (again, ensure this is done the night before).
- Grab extra bags (for books).
- Bring cash, bring pockets full with change (Correct change matters; correct change = ADVANTAGE).
- Take out dog.
- Leave home.
- Arrive early: no later than 9:00AM, a half hour before the book sale (in recent years, word has gotten out and people, lots of them, come for the sale even before the doors to the library open at 9:00AM…these are serious people).
I am a serious person…when it comes to books and massive book sales (when it comes to this massive book sale). This is a serious book sale.
Things. Did. Not. Go. As. Planned.
Woke up on time, but hit snooze and spent way too much time in the bathroom, forgot to boil eggs, grabbed breakfast bars only after the absurd amount of time it took to remember we had them in the first place and the panic that ensued thinking I’d have to go into this, one of the biggest book sales of the year, hangry, took out the dog, bolted from home only to find transit delayed, trains so slow, so slow and lumbering, arrived at library just before 9:30AM and found myself forming part of a very long line that went through the building, out the door, and around the block.
Evidently, I am not the only serious person serious about this most serious sale.
Serpentine line, like at amusement parks, or celebrity wakes. Too many people, so many bodies blocking the doors it was a fire hazard. There was some confusion as people shuffled, and were shuffled, to and fro:
“Whomever believes the are at the end of the line, put your hand up,” said the burly library security guard. Many hands, scattered here and there, scattered all around, came up. Shot up into the air.
Libraries have burly security guards? This one does. Seriously.
The line was broken up; people waiting after a certain point (this was, roughly, underneath the stairwell inside the main foyer) were asked to line up outside, against the building and down the block. They politely obliged, so wiling they were to get into this sale that waiting in line was an accepted exchange, a hardship readily borne.
People from all walks of life were there, but I could see clusters that mirrored each other: kids off from March break (serious ones, of course, who waited patiently for their turn at the books), retirees, university students (more than a few reading textbooks as the lined lurched forward at irregular intervals), obvious hoarders. Many brought backpacks and tote bags and suitcases, the kind with the wheels on the bottom and an extendable handle, for ease.
(Kind of wish I had thought of that, extra baggage in this case would have served as an extra advantage. For serious.)
I spent my time in the line chatting amiably with a woman named Fran,* who told her work she had an important “appointment” that morning which could not be rescheduled. Not a lie. Good on you Fran!
Fran has some very interesting theories regarding a library thief at her local branch (“Not the hoity toity library in the neighbourhood, the working-class library”): someone’s ripping recipes out of the new magazines that come on Fridays and Saturdays and Fran is on it. Together, we came up with some more interesting theories about who this person could be, and how to catch them.
Fran and I separated once we were finally ushered into the sale, way back towards the back of the big, reliable building by a volunteer who, one hour into the sale, at 10:30AM, was already losing her voice wrangling so many book-hungry people, poor woman.
“Bye, Fran! Good luck!”
Mayhem inside, but of a managed sort. Totally doable, and worth it for the books. Rows and rows and tables full of them, ten cent paperbacks, fifty cent hardcovers, although a lot of what was on offer seemed already picked over.
Some people grabbed boxes which had been emptied of books for the sale and filled them with the books from the sale. Some people went from table to table, methodically running their hands over spines and covers, picking up titles that intrigued them. Others grabbed at the books, regardless of title, condition or type, and threw them into bags and boxes.
Takes all kinds.
I spent two hours at the book sale, jostling about, snatching books were I could. For all that trouble, I good a good haul: 14 books for just over $4.50.
You can’t beat that, and hard to dismiss it.
The sale goes on until tomorrow (March 17th, 2018, 9:00AM-4:00PM). So many people, so many books: the volunteers, mostly older people wanting to do good by the books, are heroes.
One, overheard on my way out: “Once we started posting about on Facebook and places, the sale has become so popular. It’s like we can’t keep up. We just keep refilling the tables and they just keep buying.”
12:30PM. There was still a line that went through the building, out the door, and around the block. More people outside waiting to get at the books inside.
The best laid plans indeed.
* Not real name. I got you, Fran!