The Monster Book & Media Sale was held at Sojourner Truth Library from April 19 to April 25. The sale featured cheap, used books and other media sourced from campus and community donors, including students. The purpose of the sale was to raise money to buy new books and materials for the library, and it also prevents a lot of books from being thrown into landfills. None of the items for sale were from the library’s collection and most items were priced at $2 or less. This was the second Monster Book sale since the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was hosted by the Friends of the Sojourner Truth Library — a volunteer group dedicated to supporting the library.
English professor Thomas Olsen is the chair of the Friends of the Library steering committee. He stated, “A good sale would be $5,000. A bad sale might be $2,000, something like that. I haven’t counted, but this is going to be a good one.”
Professor Olsen explained how the sale is an opportunity for the Library to connect with students. “Students can come and browse books on all subjects for really cheap prices,” he said. “It’s a way to bring interesting stories and interesting information to students at really low prices.”
The sale is also run by volunteer students that sort the books, keep them organized and help with pricing and selling the books. Third-year English major and volunteer Prescott Hellem explained, “We basically help cart books up from downstairs, all different kinds. We’ve got sculptures, juvenile literature, all that stuff. We help present it and get it ready.”
“It’s not taxing, you know, it just takes time because there’s so many books. It’s such a wide selection, but in the end, it’s worth it.”
Another volunteer, third-year English major Powder Seger stated, “It’s really fun, and it’s really easy to get involved with it and it really helped support the Friends of the Library and the library itself.”
“One of the things that we did today was somebody bought like 180 books. So, we had to get them a bunch of boxes and all that,” she stated. “Usually when it’s more busy, I’ll be sitting at the table, and I’ll be doing the cash and making sure that everybody is not standing around waiting. During a quiet time, I’m walking and making sure everything looks good and organized.”
Seger also highlighted the work professor Olsen does for the sale. “He runs this whole thing. He takes care of it. He took care of it last semester, and he really clearly loves his students, and he loves doing this with the library. He’s extremely passionate about it.”
Another student, third-year graphic design major Apryl Murray, designed the poster for the sale through the New Paltz design lab class. “I got assigned the Monster Book Sale for the Friends of the Library, and I’ve just been working with Tom and my professor,” Murray said. “It was out of my comfort zone, but it was fun learning about dealing with a real-life client rather than the school project.”
The library also welcomed a new Dean this spring: Dr. Susan Frey. They stated, “Some libraries have stopped doing book sales because they don’t get any enthusiasm. But it doesn’t surprise me that the students and faculty and public here in New Paltz value, ‘Hey, I can get this really cool old book for a buck.’”
Frey was appointed Dean of the Library in March 2023 and their role is to manage the library’s 25 faculty and staff. They help create an environment in which they can support students, but also one in which library employees can do research in areas such as information science and library science. The Dean also oversees the library’s operations.
“Libraries today are more than just collections, and they’re more than just places where people can go up to someone and ask for help and finding information. They’re also very much community centers,” Frey stated. “Both the staff and the faculty here in the library work on events and community outreach. This is always embedded into curriculum; it always has to have some sort of educated lens to it.”
Frey began their career as a reference and instruction librarian at Indiana State University’s Cunningham Memorial Library from 2005-2021 and has most recently served as university librarian and professor of library services at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. They have over 35 years of experience as a librarian and researcher, and shifted to a career in librarian management after being asked to step in as a department head while a faculty member was on a sabbatical. “I thought, ‘Well, being a librarian is great, but gosh, I’ve been doing this reference stuff for 32 years. And the universe is like, ‘Well, here’s something else you could do.’”
They chose to return to school part-time while working full-time to get a PhD in educational administration, despite already having a Master’s — the terminal degree for librarianship. “I did it for me. I wanted to step back from doing this thing I was doing for 32 years and think a different way,” they stated.
“I make sure the library runs properly. I don’t do a lot of hands-on librarianship at all. I make decisions, so I have meetings with people — many, many meetings. I’m reviewing contracts, I’m reviewing budget requests. I’m signing off on things. I’m meeting with other teams and other faculty on campus who maybe need the library to do something,” Frey stated. “I would say it’s a lot of meetings. A lot of people work. And then in addition to that, it’s an enormous amount of problem solving.”
Frey explained that the library is facing the same obstacle that higher education is facing in general: a lack of monetary support. “Higher ed isn’t supported like it was in the past, which I find very sad,” they stated. “I’m a first generation college student in my family, as all my siblings, and getting an education has given me a life that I couldn’t have had otherwise.” They also explained another challenge libraries and higher education are encountering: a resistance to new ideas. “Maybe we need to change a bit. Maybe we need to listen to our new students coming in — the younger generation.”
“As a leader, I’m looking toward working with the library staff and other people in the university to say, ‘Oh, it’s great if we’re doing something because it’s comfortable, but maybe that’s not what the students want. Are we listening to them?’” they stated. “I need to listen to the students. Listen to see what the trends are. I need to let myself be uncomfortable with doing things new ways and experimenting, and I need to make it okay for the people who are reporting to me.”
The Dean has been in New Paltz for 10 weeks now and is enjoying their time so far. “When I interviewed here, I could feel this culture of tolerance and progress. There’s a progressive quality, but it’s also very chill,” they stated. “I really liked it here, and it isn’t just the job description that should be important to anybody. It’s also the culture of the place where you’re living. So, I made the right decision coming here. It’s a great place.”