Ah, the book sale. For most libraries, it is there only real money marketing venture. Hidden away in a little corner, stacks of the unwanted and unused sit, ready to be plucked at garage sale prices. But what is actually in that monster pit of refuse and bile? Well, before you plan your appearance on Antique Roadshow, let's take a look:
National Geographic and Reader's Digest Condensed Books
By far, the most plentiful items you will find in a library book sale are these two. Why you ask? Because for some reason, everyone, and I mean everyone from your great-grandfather to your milkman collected these or knows someone who did. That there are still folks out there willing to continue collecting these items is amazing, yet they sell. So the next time grandma kicks it (hopefully for the last time), remember your library when you find that collection of National Geographic behind those antique "spoons from around the world."
Does everyone know why the book sale really exists? It exists because the library cannot contain everything it has ever collected. Sure things get broken or stained, but often things just do not get used. So it is out with the old and in with the new through a process called "collection development" or "weeding" or "media-ectomy" or my favorite, "The Buffalo Theory." So libraries discard* materials and hope to get enough money in a year from them to buy at least one toner cartridge. Thanks for supporting.
Another donated item that rarely gets collected are the paperbacks. Paperbacks, the bastard red headed mule boy of the publishing industry, are kicked around until they can be recycled into something useful, like toilet paper. Sure, they have their uses. They are portable, cheap and come in a variety of colors. Because of this, though, they do not fit well on shelves and suck when it comes to longevity. So let us sell the bastard mule boys.
Honestly, this is my favorite type of book sale item. Where else but the public library can you find a laser disc of the first six episodes of Trapper John, M.D.? You wanna know where? Ebay. Other than them? TrapperJohnonlaserdisccausewhynot.com. Anywhere else? No where. And why is that? Cause most popular media checks out so fast the bastards are ripping it out of your hands before you catalog it. Libraries jump to stock things that will check out. When the old format goes away though, what's gonna happen to those Betamax copies of Battlestar Galactica (OS)? The book sale, that's what.
Handouts, Flyers and Miscellaneous
What else can you find in a book sale? Fliers for the heat centered yoga training for your pets? Why not? Handouts from local boy scout troop about spotting terrorists? That's where they are! That local newspaper that nobody reads but is really good for litter boxes and blankets on park benches when your girlfriend kicks you out for making a pass at her mother? Right over there, Smelly Jim! A Mouse corpse? Hell, yeah! There's TWO! This endless supply of crap will haunt the bowels of your mind forever.
* "Discard" is actually and old Myan word that means "to make fun of cards"
* "Paperback" was my stage name in college.