Checking Out the Competition

This past weekend, two area libraries were doing Book Sales. I love Book Sales anyway, and I had the Research excuse. Forgive me, but I am using my blog for recording my check of the “competition”:

On Saturday, the Glencoe Library sale started at 9am and I arrived at 9:27. There was a sign pointing around the side of the building, down a staircase. I never saw the inside of this library.

There was a line of people going up the staircase. Did I have the time wrong? No. Fire code. There were only letting one person in at a time, and only as people left. This was really annoying because:

a. It was cold
b. I was standing behind a family of five

Then there was the inevitable jerk a few people back that said, “I only need to go in for a minute, can I please go in front of you?!”


Once I was finally inside, I saw the need for the wait. The aisles were tiny and the books were on shelves. Kneeling down to see the bottom shelves was a problem. I couldn’t even get to the end of the hardcover fiction section because it was backed up against the children’s book space. This was no place for children.

The prices were the same as our Used Book Store’s regular prices. The volunteers were all very pleasant, but I was rather miffed that there were so many of them standing around drinking coffee when there was a line of people outside in the cold because of the Fire Code.

The take: I bought four books for $4.00.

The sale in Arlington Heights is famous. They have four sales each year and I once read that they net $80,000 a year running them. I arrived a few minutes after they opened – at noon on Sunday.

This library is huge, and they were set up inside a large room on the second floor. The books were on tables, with the overflow lined up neatly on the floor, the way we do it.

The tables were neatly labeled, but I couldn’t find the Fiction. I saw Science Fiction going in and I realized that Romance and Mystery novels were on the other side, near the other door. Fiction was scattered on the shelves outside the main room. That was tough.

The volunteers were hard at work, many carrying boxes of paperbacks to try to jam them onto the tables as space cleared throughout the day. There were a ton of CDs and books on tape, but I didn’t really look at the selection.

Like Glencoe, the prices resembled our store’s regular prices. After my first walkthrough I only had two books in my hands, so I did a second lap. I didn’t see any of what one might call “Literature”. The classics section was puny and I didn’t see any Philip Roth or Ian McEwan or Margaret Atwood-like titles.

Then I remembered that it was Sunday and the serious people would have been there the day before. I also just remembered the Scavengers – the people with little scanner guns that buy up stuff to sell it online. I saw them in Glencoe the day before. Although, now that I think about it, Arlington Heights may have banned them. I should go look that up.

At Glenview’s Used Book Store, we say the primary goal is to raise funds, but we are also there to provide a public service. The question of selling to the Scavengers has come up more than once. Anyone is welcome to buy, but do we welcome them to scan each of our books to find what we have undervalued for their benefit? Eh, maybe.

Anyway, Arlington Heights runs a fine operation even if my take was only two books for $2.00. Six dollars on the weekend. I will have to be sure to at least double that in our own shop this December.

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