Benefitting From Bargain Books

Photo by Dana Schmerzler.
Photo by Dana Schmerzler.
Photo by Dana Schmerzler.

On the shelves surrounding the front gallery of the Sojourner Truth Library (STL) lay thousands of books. The stories inside, having indulged their previous owners, were donated for New Paltz residents, staff and students to purchase for cheap.

For the 15th consecutive year, the Friends of the Sojourner Truth Library sponsored their annual used book sale from Dec. 4 – Dec. 11 in the STL. This year more than 8,000 books were donated for the sale. The Friends were able to raise more than $3,000 to benefit the library, STL Outreach Coordinator Morgan Gwenwald said.

Gwenwald said the annual used book sales generally earn the library around $3,000, but some have raked in as much as $5,000. Since their founding, the Friends have generated more than $300,000 for the STL.

“All the proceeds go directly into buying more books for the library and help to fray databases for students, like JSTOR,” she said.

Dean of the STL Mark Colvson said the support from the Friends is imperative to what the library and those working there are all about.

He said maintaining a positive connection between the campus and community is very important to him.

“The Friends of the Sojourner Truth Library are indispensible to the library,” he said. “We want to make the library feel like a welcoming place. I think [the book sale] is a wonderful opportunity for New Paltz faculty, staff and the wider community to meet and share their love of books.”

Throughout the week, Gwenwald said hundreds of students, faculty and “other members of the wider New Paltz community” shuffled through the doors of the STL to survey the selection.
Among the students she said there were also a dozen booksellers who had lined up at the door prior to opening on the first day ready to buy cheap books that they could later resell.
Members from the Equal Opportunities Program (EOP) helped to stage the event and staff the sales, Gwenwald said.

All of the books come from outside donations. Contrary to popular belief, Gwenwald said, none of the books sold are old library books.

The Friends are responsible for a large portion of the donated books. Gwenwald said they also receive “a lot of very nice donations from faculty members.”

Hardcover books, soft cover books and paperbacks were sold for $3, $2 and $1, respectively. Over the course of the week, some prices dropped to 50 cents per book, Gwenwald said.
Gwenwald said the STL, like other academic libraries across the board, is tight on space, and that the sale’s remaining books have to be either donated or shredded. Gwenwald said in an attempt to avoid having to shred the books, she often tries to find a student organization to help donate and provide books to people who could use them.

Colvson said that this particular used book sale is full of energy and that the event was “very gratifying.”