At a YMCA book sale a few weeks ago in St. Louis, police led away two book dealers in handcuffs after the two men got into a fight over a book. One of them was bleeding. Witnesses said the prized book was used as a weapon.
People had been waiting under a burning sun for hours to get into the huge sale. Apparently nobody saw the argument escalating in time to stop it. "We were too busy shopping for books," said Sharon Anderson, the youth librarian at the Cape Girardeau Public Library.
A line will start forming to get into the annual Friends of the Cape Girardeau Public Library Book Sale at about 4:30 Friday afternoon, and the Hirsch Community Room will be crowded with people and tables piled with books. There is competition, but the atmosphere usually is friendly.
The 165 members of the Friends of the Library get into a private sale at 5 p.m. Friday before the public sale begins at 6 p.m. Membership to the organization can be purchased at the door for $15.
"It amazes me the people that sign up to get in that first hour," says P.J. Jackson, the library's administrative assistant.
The sale continues Saturday and Sunday.
Most hardback books sell for $1, children's books for 50 cents, paperbacks for 25 cents and magazines for 10 cents. Last year, the sale brought in more than $3,300.
Weeding out books
Members of the Friends and library board members work at the sale and help with the preparation. The library staff has been weeding the collection in anticipation of the event, a process that is healthy for libraries.
"Research has shown when you have cleaner, fresher looking shelves, more things go out," said head librarian Betty Martin.
Some of the best finds in the book sale are duplications of classic books that have been donated to the library. Some are popular new books. "Some people are great about donating bestsellers when they get through with them," Martin said.
Paula Gresham, the adult librarian, points to an intact 1999 set of World Book Encyclopedias, a seven-book series titled "Source Records of the Great War," and the "Mayo Clinic Family Health Book" as titles that could disappear quickly. The library has put a higher price on a few titles, such as the 10-volume "Best of the World's Classics," a 1909 collection of great literature edited by Henry Cabot Lodge.
"It's unusual to find a set like this in such excellent condition," Gresham said.
The sale was established about 15 years ago. One year it was held in a brightly-colored tent on the library grounds, but securing the tent overnight and controlling access and egress were difficult, so the tent was retired.
The prizes to be found at the sale are books that are now out of print, Anderson says. "You couldn't get these books otherwise."
Some books, particularly those for children, are prized for a different reason, she said.
"They bring back wonderful memories of stories you have read to your children."
335-6611, extension 182