MSP Reading Time: Library Book Sale Season!


Book frenzy!

Well, it really does seem that spring is here in Minnesota (the nasty rumors I hear of the chance of snow next week notwithstanding). I think I feel safe in stating that the worst is behind us. It is only going to get warmer from here on out. I heard a few rumbles of thunder last weekend, and I see the beginnings of the first hostas of the spring poking out of gardens I pass on the way to work. The sign of spring I appreciate the most, though, is not related to weather. Traditionally, the various branches of the Hennepin County Library system schedule their biannual book sales in March and April, and this has been my main source of books and other media for years now. When I start to smell freshly defrosted dirt or see a few robins poking around in it, I know that soon I will be adding untold new titles into my library. I tell you, it is all I can do to refrain from rubbing my hands together in unmitigated greed when I think of it.


Queue begins for booksale, Westonka Library

Yeah, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that there are few things I like more than a library book sale, and those offered by the friends of the various Hennepin County libraries are some of the best. As a metro well known for literacy and love of a good book, these are always treasure troves of book deals and it is always an adventure to delve into them in search of lost delights. I literally have dreams about them and what I might find. Featuring boxes and boxes of materials, some slightly damaged or obsolete titles weeded from library collections and some donated by other library patrons, you never know what will be uncovered. Attending a booksale often places you in the center of a book frenzy as book hungry patrons crowd elbow to elbow as they rifle through rows of books new and old looking for a bargain. You often spot regulars, people who show up at many of them, usually early in the lines. While the future of print media and libraries may still be digital, as more and more is offered online, at library sales, books are still king and the smell of yellowed antique paper and and freshly printed pages alike still fill the air.

I would say that at least of quarter of my library has been withdrawn from one public library or another over the years. At this point, I have not read a quarter of these acquisitions and should probably lay off for awhile, at least until I put a dent into my reading list and so some major weeding- after all, I have seven shelves filled to bursting already. This newest haul has put me over the top a little- I may need to invest in another one, at least until I do a little weeding of my own. It is so hard, though!

Last Saturday, I visited probably the best kept secret among the HCL book sales, the Westonka branch Sale in Mound, a bedroom community on the western outskirts of the metro. (Well, maybe, judging by the number of people  there, its not THAT much of a secret). Whereas most county library sales average around $2.00 per hardcover, $1.00 per paperback (still a great deal, don’t get me wrong), Westonka’s prices cannot be beat- they have been asking for a buck a book, and .50 cents per paperback. It’s like it’s the ‘70s or something! Thanks to this, it has attracted a bit of a following. Packing hundreds of titles into its small meeting room, arranged in lose categories, usually with nonfiction forming a protective circle around the fiction, with the children and juvenile materials in the back, there is always something for any taste.

Arriving early at a booksale is essential, in my mind. The books will be fresh, all manner of opportunities still preserved. Being among the first to hit the tables guarantees a good selection. On the other hand, visiting later in the sale can also turn up interesting finds, as stuff that had been buried underneath layers of donations begin to rise to the surface. Also, it is often the custom at HCL booksales that later days are “bag days,” in which books can be purchased in bulk, a dollar for an entire grocery bag stuffed full with treasures.

It can be a little frantic; you and two dozen other people crowding into the Westonka branch’s little conference room, stuffed near to bursting with books of all topics and ages, piles of CDs, DVDs, and even old fashioned VHS, cassette tapes, and vinyls, if you’re into those sort of things! Everyone sifting through the piles, scanning the tables, peeking at the as yet unloaded boxes stashed under the tables, looking for whatever catches their fancies. Some, like myself, are there for the pure joy of scoring cheap books that we had been looking for, while others are making a little money on the side by snatching up whatever is popular on Amazon and reselling them online. This is Minnesota, though, so in general people respect personal space and won’t go shoving past to grab stuff out from under you (mostly!).

I think I can understand a little bit of the bargain hunters’ ; you keep a list of authors and subjects you are looking for in the back of your mind as you scramble through the random piles of withdrawn library books and donations, ranging everything from last month’s bestseller, lightly used, to a yellowed and obscure antique volume. This is particularly true at Westonka; for some reason, I am always amazed at the bizarre variety they have continually offered. One of my favorite parts is discovering just what I will uncover in any upcoming sale. This year Westonka worked out quite well for me; I got a couple of books I had been looking for, a few surprises, and some fun nostalgic stuff. Check out my BookLikes blog for a full accounting!


The haul! end cost = $12!

So, upcoming booksales this weekend include the Southdale and Edina branches, both of which I have had good luck at, as well as at Brooklyn Park, Golden Valley, and Hosmer. I am aiming to hit up at least one of these and add to the hoard. Check here to keep informed as to upcoming sales. Also, most have another sale in the autumn as well, so if you miss one this spring, just wait a few months.


3 thoughts on “MSP Reading Time: Library Book Sale Season!

  1. Wow, so many booksales in one area, in one weekend. I’m jealous! I’ve recently tried to practice more “restraint” in following booksales, not driving more than an hour to find one. But that rule wouldn’t hold if I lived in the twin cities metro area! Perhaps I’m lucky that I don’t. 🙂

    Your descriptions of your feelings about library booksales capture mine exactly. Looking forward to learning what else you score!

  2. Yes, the impulse for me is to grab everything, even if unsure. You can always bring it back later- made it to the Edina and Southdale sales this weekend. Edina was a madhouse as usual, totally frenzied but, oddly enough, there were only a dozen people at most at Southdale. Southdale is a much larger branch with just as much being offered at the booksale, so I was totally free to linger at this huge collection of comics and graphic novels they set out- got some really, really odd ones that I will be talking about on Booklikes shortly!

  3. Pingback: Land of 10,000 Pages: MSP Reading Time- “State Fair: The Great Minnesota Get Together” | MSP Adventure Time!

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