A library book is a book with history. Check one out: Unless it's a rare pristine volume that's just hit the shelves, you know it's been around -- smudged covers, annotated margins, coffee stains and all. But still, you have to wonder what line a library book must cross to be included when the Denver Public Library offers up a selection of its used treasures for sale at the annual DPL Friends Foundation Used Book Sale.
Though some volumes come from private donors, low circulation is the major criterion for determining which library materials are diverted to the sale tables to make way for newer items on the shelves. "There are no stacks [for storage]. Libraries used to have stacks," says chief sorter Cynthia Monley, explaining that these days, space is at a premium. That is why she devotes two mornings a week year-round to sorting the mountains of spare Stephen King thrillers and read-to-death Harry Potter adventures that make their way to her domain: the Denver Central Library's sorting room, where boxes upon boxes ascend like a cresting tidal wave. There, Monley and her crew of thirteen painstakingly sift through the inky flow and arrange items according to category and value. "This is a book lover's paradise," Monley says. No kidding.
The fruit of the sorters' cheerful labor will be available for public perusal and purchase when the library sale opens up shop this weekend, offering bargains in two categories: the better hardcovers, which are priced individually, and the mass paperbacks that some buyers gather by the wagonload. "Books are getting more and more expensive," says sale chairwoman Marcelina Rivera. "Here you can find great deals...and not get any overdue fines." Sale items also include CDs, videos and miscellaneous media.
Some will snap up picture books; though crayon marks decorate endpapers and some of the pages are ripped, it makes no difference to a kid: A story is a story, and some of the best end up on the sale tables, well-used but intact. Others buy dog-eared mysteries that have been solved again and again or cookbooks that have yielded their gastronomic secrets countless times. Whatever the case, it's a rare opportunity to stock up on a commodity that's maybe not so rare. The joy that books bring, though -- well, that's another story.