The Friends of the Wellesley Free Libraries hasn’t held one of its big seasonal book sales since February 2020, not long before Gov. Baker declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the charitable foundation, which funds materials, services, and programming not covered by the library budget, has found a variety of ways sell books and other materials all along. The latest effort will be an outdoor sale on Sunday, March 21 in the main library parking lot from 1-4pm.
“Since the main Library reopened in the fall, we have been seeking as many safe avenues as possible to sell books to the community,” says Barbara Marx, president of the Friends. “We held a small outdoor book sale in November and have had several ‘pop-up’ sales in the library featuring cookbooks, holiday books, study guides, etc. Around February vacation week, we held our first large, themed sale. We brought out a collection of children’s, youth, and young adult books & DVDs and set them up on carts and tables in the rotunda.”
Most of these books are donated by people in the community, though some come from the library itself.
In spite of the pandemic, the Friends organization has had a strong year, Marx says. Membership is up 40%, donations have rolled in, and the group has been inundated with books in light of other area libraries being temporarily closed, she says.
These resources have enabled the Friends to continue funding virtual programs for children and adults. “Since many museums are not open and not accepting library passes that are supported by the Friends, we saved that funding for the future,” Marx says.
Dealing with dealers
Marx and fellow Friends “suspect people did their ‘spring cleaning’ all thru the summer, fall and winter,” resulting in the Friends receiving more books than the organization could possibly sell through small sales.
The Friends’ motto over the past couple of months has been to sell as many book as it can, then “pack and stack” in preparation for the main library’s temporary closure at the end of April to allow for renovations over the spring and summer.
One way the Friends has looked to sell lots of books is by reaching out to dealers of used books who are Friends members. Marx described them as “avid patrons of our big book sales and who we heard were starving for inventory.” These dealers, some local and some not, are known for descending upon the library’s seasonal book sales on opening preview night, battling for books with Friends members from the general public.
During the pandemic, the Friends tried something new. The organization invited more than a dozen dealers who were members of the Friends to a by-appointment-only sale. Revenue generated approached that of a major book sale, Marx said during a recent Board of Trustees meeting.
The Friends balances its priority of serving the public with its book sales and boosting revenue through dealer sales.
Money is also raised through sales via Amazon. One book recently fetched $120 after Amazon expenses. The Friends currently works with an outside Amazon bookseller, and splits the proceeds. The outfit would love to find a knowledgeable volunteer to handle this instead of going through an outside partner, Marx says.
The Friends has been thankful throughout the pandemic for the support of library leadership and staff, which has allowed the foundation a larger work space and sales area in which to make items available to visitors.
Book donations are no longer being accepted at this time, though the Friends will continue to refresh its shelves at the library until April 17. “We hope patrons will save their donations for us as we will start accepting them again in the fall,” Marx says.