The Friends Book Sale has become such an institution that many dedicated buyers arrange their summer schedule around the sale, held every year at the end of July or in early August.
For close to 60 years, the Friends of the West Tisbury Library have raised thousands and thousands of dollars for the West Tisbury library selling books donated year-round by the community. The sale, which started as one bookshelf on the outside door of the Grange Hall at the fair, this year filled up the entire gymnasium of the West Tisbury School.
The four-day event recycled over 30,000 books to help raise its biggest total ever — $27,553 for books sold, plus donations.
But the sale wouldn’t be possible without the help of a total of 36 volunteers, under the direction of Susan Wasserman, principal organizer, and Lee Revere, chairman. The volunteers range in age from Evie Hamilton at 91 to Suzi Wasserman’s grandchildren, who help out every year. In their own words, here’s what this amazing crew had to say about their experience working for the Friends Book Sale.
Evie Hamilton, Oak Bluffs and New York City, age 91
“I started volunteering with the book sale 25 or 30 years ago, when we were at the old Grange. Most of the volunteers were ‘literary ladies.’ When I told them I read thousands of Regency romances, they gave me Fiction. They considered it ‘lowbrow,’ but soon romance belonged on the floor.
“One year my neighbor opened up a maritime book and saw, ‘From David and Rosalee. To Bill and Hillary.’ He gave us the $10 and took it home. What I found out later was that David and Rosalee had neighbors named Bill and Hillary … and after Bill died, Hillary had donated the book to our book sale. My neighbor thought he was getting something from the president …”
Dr. Susan Winickoff, Chilmark
“What I love is coming back, seeing the same people hard at work, sorting books … we connect to each other, mostly just for this one month of the year.
“Everyone who works here loves books, loves reading. So if you find a great book, you take it over to show it off. As a volunteer, that’s one of the wonderful things: you get to preview, you get to check out the books ahead of time.”
Dr Richard Winickoff, Chilmark
“We don’t have to punch a time clock, and we have a very good boss, Suzi Wasserman. She is a great administrator, nice to work with, very organized.”
Marilyn Hollinshead, West Tisbury
“I had a children’s bookstore in Pittsburgh for 17 years, called Pinocchio. I also ran a workshop for children’s book authors. Sixty books were produced by authors who took the workshop over the years.”
Marlene Parker, Edgartown
“I’ve worn out two pairs of gloves. It’s great exercise; we look forward to doing it every year.”
Beverly Szakacs, West Tisbury and Saddle River, N.J.
“I’ve been here for 27 or 28 years. Nobody wanted to do the 40-subject field, so I’ve become a multitasker. Quilting, Needlepoint, Antiques, you name it — whatever they can’t figure out what to give to anybody else, they give to me!
“To volunteer here you have to love each other, and you have to love books. And have a good egg for a husband. Mine has his birthday on July 31, exactly at the book sale time. After 54 years of marriage, am I going to change?”
Lee Revere, West Tisbury, chairman of Book Sale
“Yes, I moved to the Vineyard in 1987 (former advertising executive in NYC), and began running the book sale the next year. Now I sort the books coming in all year long, with the help of Helen DeBlase. We have all types of books brought in. You are bound to find something you like. We cover it all — cookbooks, mysteries, nonfiction …”
Susan Wasserman, West Tisbury, principal organizer of Book Sale
“All these books are donated. We had somewhere close to 30,000 total books this year. The great story here is that all year long, people all over the Island give us donations; Lee and Helen sort them …10,000 books come in the door during the setup period. Then in this five-week period, the whole thing is set up … the books are sorted into sections, then we have the four-day sale. What wonderful generosity and teamwork.
“The most expensive book we’ve ever had was a Charles Lindbergh book that was signed by both Charles and Anna. It was very uncommon for both Lindberghs to sign. Valued near $1,500, we eventually received about $500. A very fair transaction.
“Our unsung volunteer hero is Richard Williams, who is a summer person here from his home in Pennsylvania. He comes every year for the entire five weeks, every morning, pitching in to do whatever chore we need at the time. As he says, ‘You women work so hard, I have to support you.’ He does all those jobs that we aren’t physically able to do.”