By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)
Westport, CT – White tents, large fans, herds of people and over 100,000 individual books and CDs.
That was the scene Saturday morning as the four-day 18th Annual Friends of the Westport Library Book Sale got under way. The number of individual book and music items was not the only staggering number. Consider that up to 20,000 people were expected to visit throughout the sale run, 300 volunteers help work the event and it takes a week to get everything set up and organized.
“In 1993, we started off with a little table inside the library and maybe 5,000 books,” said Mimi Greenlee, co-chairman of the event. “Today, we had 650 people in line before we even opened.”
Greenlee explained that all books are donated by area residents and that revenue goes to supplement library programming, help add to its collection and support general library needs. The sale is one of three the library hosts annually – the others are in March and December. Combined, these events raise an estimated $160,000 per year.
“This sale is considered to be one of the top three in Connecticut, the other two being Newington and Southport,” added Greenlee. “Dealers and large volume book buyers hit all three on consecutive weekends.”
New this year is the dedication of separate tents for children’s books fiction/mysteries and audio visual. In the main, over 50 categories of books are featured. Inside the library, special volumes for photography, art and architecture are housed.
The Slowik family of Westport had made their purchases and was sitting in a circle on the lawn near the main tent. “We’ve been coming here for seven years,” said Maria Slowik. “We all look forward to it, and always buy too many books. We like the children’s books and nutrition/wellness oriented manuals. This is a great way to spend a sunny Saturday.”
Browsing the children’s books area with her three daughters, Fatima Barroso of Fairfield thought the sale was a great way to get her kids to be enthusiastic about reading. “They pick out their own books,” she said. Her eldest daughter Ysabela, 9, added brightly, “Books expand your imagination.”
Also squatting on the grass, beside the fiction tent, with her young son and daughter, Kim Ruhnke of Norwalk said she focuses on buying children’s books. “You save a lot of money and there’s a lot of variety,” she said. “Ryan (4) likes books on cars and dinosaurs while Emily (7) likes books on Barbie and Amelia Bedelia.”
Rena Moy, of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, was busy leafing through titles in the main tent. “I’m here visiting a friend in town, who comes to the sale annually,” she said. “It seemed like a good idea to attend. There’s an amazing selection here – I’m overwhelmed. My kids are busy in the children’s section, my husband is in the sci-fi section and my friends are in the literature area. There’s really something for everyone.”
Book dealer Bill Nadolny, from New Hartford, CT, was in the a/v area amassing a stack of CDs. “I made the 60-mile ride down especially for this sale,” he said. “This is one of the top 10 shows in New England. The quality and quantity of items is both excellent.”
Standing nearby, Diane Lowman had removed a record from its sleeve and was holding it up to check for warping. “I was here to find ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote for my 18-year-old son, but got mesmerized by everything else that’s here,” she said. “I brought one bag and now I’m on bag number two.”
Book Sale Days, Hours and Prices are as follows: Sat. & Sun. 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., as marked; Mon. 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., half price; Tue. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., free.