Story and photo by Daniella Zelikman
Books are a really big part of my life. Along with all my apartment essentials, I moved into college each year with a box stuffed full of as many books as I could feasibly carry and became intimately familiar with every bookstore in town. So, when I realized the Friends of the Tompkins County Library Book Sale was happening, I cleared my Sunday schedule.
The book sale is a staple event in Ithaca’s calendar, occurring biyearly in May and October. The purpose of the sale is to raise money for the Friends of the Library and help fund their grants and programs. They spend most of the year collecting donated books in their massive warehouse, culminating in their month-long book sales.
Although I’ve attended the book sale on their nonprofit day in the past on behalf of my club, I’ve never gone during the actual sale. To get the full experience, I decided to attend the first weekend of the sale. Armed with a tote bag, I arrived around noon and spent twenty minutes waiting in line outside. While chatting with a volunteer, I found out that in years past, people have waited for three hours just to get in. In comparison, twenty minutes doesn’t seem that bad, but when I finally entered the warehouse, I could understand what would drive people to do that.
There were rows upon rows of bookshelves crammed to bursting with paperbacks and hardcovers. Meticulously organized by genre, the book sale provides a map to more easily navigate the endless rows of the warehouse. It was far too easy to get lost and turned around without one. As a massive sci fi/fantasy fan, I spent a long time in that section, searching for interesting books from authors old and new. In a matter of minutes, I had three books in my tote bag.
I didn’t have a plan beyond that, so I wandered to see what else I could find. I discovered a section of the sale dedicated to records and CDs and an entire corner dedicated to children’s books. Along with the fiction shelves, there was an equally large poetry section where I became enamored with a collection of Anne Sexton’s work.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the book sale is the collector’s corner. A small room set aside from the main madness of the warehouse, it houses a carefully curated selection of rare and interesting books and records. Some are even signed. While flipping through the records, I found a Soviet-era recording of Yevgeny Yevtushenko, my mother’s favorite poet, reading some of his work set to rock music. I immediately knew I had to buy it for her.
I came away from the book sale loaded with more books than I knew what to do with and a strange sense of accomplishment. There’s no better feeling in the world than discovering something new to you and that was exactly what I did on Sunday.
The Friends of the Library Book Sale is open October 23-26 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is located at 509 Esty St in Ithaca.