Volunteer vendors at the Friends of the Library Book Sale donate their time for a good cause, but they also insist on having fun. Each week, the circumstances of the sales allow interesting and sometimes trying encounters, often beyond what one might expect.
Rosanne Thomas, a 5-year-old volunteer, started working in book sales about 2-3 years ago, recruited as a reward by a friend who had helped her work on the Hudson blood drive. If she liked sorting and arranging the books, she now prefers the atmosphere of the auction room on Saturdays.
“We have so many regulars and people always arrive happy,” she said. “They know they’ll find great prices and are really happy when they find something they didn’t expect.”
Recently, she answered a call at the Mary Hutchins sale in Beachwood, who asked if the shelves held any golf books.
Hutchins explained that his brother Fran Fraser has a library of over 2,000 books on golf, but was always looking to add more. Luckily, the sorters had done a “special interest” exhibition of golf books that week, so Thomas patiently read all the titles to Hutchins, who repeated them to his brother.
Thomas created a “To Go” stack and a “No” stack, and that was enough for Hutchins and Fraser to get to Hudson. Half an hour later, shoppers were in the store, happy with their purchase.
“My daughter lives in Hudson, and she’s in the Friends store every week buying books for her three kids, ages 4, 5, and 6,” Hutchins says. “I had been in the store with her, and when Fran came to live temporarily with us, I immediately thought we could find some books there to add to her collection.”
Hutchins said Fraser, still an avid amateur golfer at 82, is one of the few people who can boast of playing every Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia, for the past 50 years. She added that he was interested in all aspects of golf.
“After visiting all the new and used bookstores in the area, I can say that the Friends store is by far our best resource. The prices are phenomenal and the vendors are very helpful. My brother is their happiest customer.
Saleswoman Lynn Remly also sees loyal customers every week, and she particularly enjoys the contact with other bibliophiles.
“We’re limited to one sale a week now because of COVID,” she says, “and we have to limit shoppers to 15 minutes of browsing if we have a full store, but people are still coming to chat, share their news and report on mom’s recent shoulder surgery. It’s a very friendly atmosphere,” Remly said.
A man regularly sneaks in the door of the sale saying, “Don’t tell my wife I’m here.”
His wife usually makes an appearance soon after to get her husband back, but not before he’s acquired a few new volumes.
Likewise, a frequent mantra is, “My husband is going to divorce when he sees this pile of books,” but Friends are unaware that they have caused too many actual marital breakdowns.
Sometimes the welcoming atmosphere takes a more serious turn. A young man who came to the store regularly confided to Remly that his father was dying of cancer and that he had quit his job and moved back to Ohio to be with his mother for moral support.
“I was his mother’s age, and I think there were things he could tell me that he couldn’t tell his mother for fear of upsetting her – his own worries, his fears, his feelings of loss. I was happy to listen to it,” Remly said.
They once discussed physicist Richard Feynman, and the young engineer expressed interest in learning more about the man who identified the O-ring leaks that brought down the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. Remly found exactly what he needed, a biography of Feynman who came as a gift one day.
“I don’t remember pulling the shopping list off the kitchen counter when I go to the store, but for some reason I can remember when people are looking for a particular book or author,” he said. she declared. “We’re not computerized, but when I see something that I think a client will be interested in, I put it aside and contact them if I can or wait for next week’s visit.” Remly offered it to the young man at the next sale. “As an engineer and a Feynman fan, he was very happy to have it.”
The Friends are particularly proud of their children’s collection, helping parents like Hutchins’ daughter get their children interested in reading. The store holds an annual sale for educators/homeschoolers before classes start each fall, but parents and guardians come regularly to stock up.
One day, a boss homeschooling her nephew, who is immunocompromised and therefore unable to attend live classes in the COVID environment, turned to the Friends bookstore as a resource.
“She had looked in the boy’s syllabus to see what would be needed for future lessons and came to the store to fill a box,” Thomas recalled. “For $20, she had enough to last for months.”
Friends sellers also participate in Random Acts of Kindness Week, sponsored annually by the Hudson League for Service, giving away a free book or two every hour as part of their participation. But random acts of kindness naturally happen more frequently, Remly notes.
“A young college-age woman came by once and wanted to buy both Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Emma. As she was leaving, she realized she was running out of money and started to hand over one of the books,” Remly said. “When I realized what was happening, I just gave him the second book. I remember when I was in college and strapped for money. It’s a small thing, but I think it meant a lot to her.
Overall, the Friends are happy to take the generous donations of books offered by the community and turn them into support for library programs and the interests and needs of store customers.
Salespeople routinely go above and beyond the call of duty to help people find what they need and want, and they appreciate the often surprising leads during weekly sales.
“It’s not as dramatic as Pawn Stars, my favorite TV show, but we also think you never know what’s coming through that door.” The Friends bookstore is currently open from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. every Saturday.
Anyone interested in volunteering with the Friends should contact Bev Dorson, Volunteer Coordinator, at email@example.com.