Romance is on the floor along the back wall. Five tables are labeled Mystery. The boxes next to Religion hold Woman's Issues, divided into sections: Love, Sexuality, Relationship, and Mom's Issues. Approximately 30,000 books, sorted according to subject matter, were assigned their own tables and floor spaces.
With organizational skills that could serve as a government model, the Friends of West Tisbury Library managed last weekend's book sale, remarkable in its 51st year, and filled the West Tisbury school gymnasium, brimming with books and people who came to read, share and buy by the bagful. This past weekend was the result of a year-long effort culminating in five weeks of straight-out concentrated labor. As in years past, the Dukes County Sheriff's department helped transport the books to the school gym and place them in their assigned areas.
People drifted from table to table, from one floor box to another - hushed, eyes peering at the rows of titles, making the room feel more like a museum than a school gym.
The four-day event is a rebuttal to the notion that people no longer read, and refutes the idea that the internet and other technological forms of disseminating sound-bites of information and entertainment have replaced the pastime of settling down with a good book.
Quiet clusters formed to share the serendipity of a discovery, to tell to whom a book would be given, or to announce the relevancy of a choice.
On the third day of the sale, Sunday, the already slashed prices would be halved, and on the fourth morning, Monday, eliminated altogether; free books, as many as you could lug away. And yet on opening day this past Friday, and again Saturday, approximately 50 people stood in line waiting to be allowed inside.
After all, someone might have not wanted to risk losing the "Encyclopedia of Aviation," or "53 Boats You Can Build."
In the time it took one person to reach for it, another was clutching Jacques Cousteau's oversized "The Ocean World" (publisher's printed price, $245; book sale price, $5). There were "The National Geographic Society 100 years of Adventures and Discovery" ($25), "Eyewitness, 150 years of Photojournalism," and an oversized book of Avedon's photographs from 1947 to 1977 ($40). There were first editions, a section of Collectibles, books by Island writers, books about art, writing, poetry, gardening, biographies, self-help, travel, foreign language, politics, an illustrated book on giants, and an adult pop-up book on the functions of the brain, complete with a tape cassette. The audiotapes were free; library T-shirts, $2; and the totes, $5. The children's books were the first to go.
Ann Brown, who runs a hotel in Lenox with its own wine library, was delighted with the selection of books on wines - including "Mouton Rothchild Painting for the Labels" - and Bonna Whitten-Stovall exclaimed over a video of Maya Plisetskaya dancing Swan Lake.
One elderly woman - accompanied by an elderly man following several paces behind as she studied book titles - could be overheard saying she "just wants to do one more lap," and then she'd be ready to leave.
"We all love books, and we're really into this," said Ms. Schultz.
Volunteer workers Diane Manter, Lee Revere, and Suzi Wasserman were among those who walked the floor answering questions and solving problems.
Noting differences from one year to another, Ms. Wasserman said, "Each year the categories vary. This year, History and Maritime are fabulous."
Rosemarie Doane described how well planned the sale always is, explaining that each volunteer is matched with a table whose topic interests her. (Just as the other shoppers do, volunteers pay for their choices.) Listening to the women who work all year sorting, categorizing, and pricing the books, one is impressed with their sense of mission.
Photo by CK Wolfson
Ms. Wasserman paused in the midst of her work, face flushed with the heat of the day and the intensity of her efforts, to say how grateful she was for "the generosity of people to give us books all year long." She explained that the West Tisbury library gets first pick, and the unsold books are sent to Hands Across the Water, an organization that provides books to impoverished areas around the world. "Recycled," is the word Ms. Wasserman kept repeating: "I just love that they get recycled."
Last year, close to $17,000 was raised and used to purchase equipment and special programs for the West Tisbury Free Public Library. This year's sale added $18,000 to the coffers.
No surprise. Just as many others, a smiling Jean Hay needed a cart to bring all her books outside to her car, and Ms. Whitten-Stovall, thrilled to have observed her $20 budget while purchasing almost 30 books, expressed equal satisfaction.