Nancy Edmonds Hanson
The Moorhead Public Library’s modus operandi is lending books – everyone knows that. But the Friends of the Library organization gives the love of reading a slightly different twist. For a handful of pocket change, they let you keep them.
Everyone needs Friends like these. Next week, the 20-year-old group of library boosters sponsors its semi-annual book sale, where avid readers can peruse and purchase favorites from among perhaps 10,000 volumes. The sale in the library’s crowded basement regularly draws hundreds of bargain hunters, who dig happily through selections of children’s, young adult and adult fiction and nonfiction … then pay up at prices between 50 cents and two bucks per volume. The deals are even better Saturday, with bagfuls for $5 each *and just $4 for those who bring their own Friends of the Library tote bags).
Hours are from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Each year the Friends sponsor two major sales, one in spring, the other now. A third big one comes up Oct. 15-21 during National Friends of the Library Week, when they’ll host a bag sale upstairs in the large event room.
Four mini-sales are scattered through the rest of the year, including during the summer concert series. Since Covid upended regular visits in 2020, the group has also offered an online virtual bookstore featuring select used children’s and adult books; it continues at www.friendsofthelibrary.org.
Pam Gibb and Karen Jacowitz co-chair the sales, whose proceeds are dedicated to supporting all kinds of needs and programs of the community library. The two women generally spend half a dozen hours a week sorting and storing the books, CDs, DVDs and audiobooks that patrons donate throughout the year. Next week, though, they will be everpresent.
Pam has been part of the support group since 2004, when then-head librarian Anne Fredine revitalized what had become a largely moribund band of supporters with the help of president Jean Sando. “They talked me into getting involved with what they were doing,” Pam remembers. She was quickly elected secretary of the board, a position she has held ever since.
A few years later, in 2007, Pam brought the idea of the used book sale to Fredine as a way to generate interest in the organization and, more important, funds for purchases the library’s budget couldn’t be stretched to cover. Karen joined the time-consuming effort a few years later, and they’ve been at it ever since.
The Friends’ fund-raising usually generates $13,000 or so every year. All of it goes where the library’s needs are greatest. One big achievement is their sponsorship of the Book Truck, the cheery lime green bookmobile. Other, more typical, purchases include heavy-duty book carts to help library staff shuttle among the shelves; toys, games and furnishings for the children’s area; tables and chairs for event spaces and the staff work room; support of the children’s summer and winter reading programs; and the niceties that brighten days, from staff appreciation tokens to the copious amounts of candy tossed to spectators during their participation in the Greater Moorhead Days parade.
Pam and Karen emphasize that the books sold by the Friends have never graced the library’s own shelves. Instead, all come from the community, often from book lovers who are downsizing their personal libraries and homes. “Our first sale featured a very large cookbook collection we were given,” Pam remembers. “We had so many books that we actually charged by the inch.”
She and the volunteers who organized and staffed that first sale learned a lot, she admits “We didn’t sort our books by category that first year. Big mistake!”
Now the stock is sorted into genres of their own devising. (“It’s nothing like the Dewey Decimal System,” Karen warns.) Arranged spine-up on tables crowded into the basement rooms are children’s hardcover and paperback books, young adult fiction, literary titles, adult nonfiction loosely grouped by topic, and popular fiction. Generally more recent, that category includes hardcover and paperback titles ranging from romance, mystery and adventure to series titles.
When customers come to the sale, they’ll be assisted by a revolving roster of volunteers from the Friends organization. Of almost 200 members, the co-chairs estimate about 50 make up the core group of volunteers. “It’s a really great group,” Karen observes. “They’re always there when we need them.
“Sometimes people ask us for certain books, but for most of our customers, it’s a hunt,” Pam says. “People come to see what we’ve got, and sometimes they do find treasures.”
One special attraction this year is an extensive collection of paperbacks including westerns and action adventure titles, including some full sets. Among them: titles by Louis L’Amour and William Johnstone, the Trailman and Mack Bolan series; and much more.
Whatever the bounty laid out on sales tables next week, know that there’s more where that comes from. The small downstairs rooms once occupied by MCAT are now stacked with boxes and more boxes of titles awaiting the light of day. But more donations are always – always! – welcome.
Pam’s and Karen’s roles as used-book vendors are strictly volunteer. Karen, who also serves on the Minnesota Association of Library Friends board, works part-time as a tax assistant for a local accountant. She and husband Matt Craig have three adult children.
Pam, a freelance communications consultant, and husband Jason have two children who attend Horizon Middle School and Moorhead High.
Predictably, both of the co-chairs are avid readers. Karen’s “reading,” she says, is primarily via audio books. Pam prefers print, reading “virtually everything – mystery, romance, general fiction.” Her number-one passion is Diana Gabaldon’s historical fantasy series, Outlander. Now caught up with all published books in the series, she leads the Friends’ subset of anxious fans, the Waiting for Outlander Book Club.