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Thousands Of Booth Library Book Sale Devotees Prove Print Is Not Dead

Published: July 15, 2017

In a strange twist of coincidence, a prediction made during a humorous skit presented by Friends of the C.H. Booth Library ahead of this year’s book sale opening “stampede” the morning of July 8 eventually came to pass — so perhaps the spirit of the library’s original benefactor Mary Hawley was present after all.

The annual book sale conducted at Reed Intermediate School drew to a close on July 12 as a resounding success, according to organizers including Book Sale Chair Denise Kaiser and PR Chair Toni Earnshaw.

But it was Ms Kaiser who predestined the sale’s six-figure take and turnout in excess of 6,000 customers before the doors ever opened. As is the tradition, a pre-opening pep talk to the 120-plus volunteers included a surprise in the form of a séance featuring “Swami” Alexis Nanavaty complete with head scarf, manipulating a donated Ouiji Board while Ms Kaiser conferred with the ghost of Ms Hawley.

Along with a few gags, one of the questions answered was about the anticipated success of this year’s event, which ended up holding true — and then some.

As the doors closed at noontime on Wednesday, a spent but happy group of volunteers finally got to sit down together to enjoy donated pizza and refreshments and look back on another monumentally successful endeavor, which is the primary fundraiser for the local library.

“When we started out, we took over much of the front of Reed School, with [more than 120,000] books and other materials filling the gym, cafetorium, the lobby, and a couple of other rooms,” Ms Earnshaw told The Newtown Bee. “And by the time we closed, we were down to just a few tables of books left.”

Predictors of this year’s turnout were evident long before Saturday’s 9 am opening, however, as 443 ticketed early birds lined up to get first dibs on whatever type of reading, listening, or viewing materials tickled their fancy.
“For the past I don’t know how many years, we’d typically see 250 to 300 people coming in to get these early access tickets,” Ms Earnshaw said. “Opening day is normally our best day, but this year we had more opening day customers than I can remember.”

“We just closed the doors,” Ms Kaiser said, “and I can tell you I am experiencing just an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for all of our dedicated volunteers, and the businesses who also supported us by sending over food and drinks.”

She said it took more than 90 Friends’ volunteers more than a week to set up the sale, and virtually 11 months or more to receive, sort, price, and transport the donated materials to the Reed School event site. Ms Kaiser was also grateful to dozens of Newtown High School students who also spent time volunteering throughout the preparation process and during the sale itself.

In addition, Ms Kaiser said she not only recognized a lot of “old friends” who returned after many years of patronizing the annual sale, “but this year, I took note of how many people I saw multiple times; some even came every day.”

“This year’s sale also represented the largest majority of what I would call regular readers, versus dealers or bookstore owners,” Ms Kaiser said. “And I think that speaks to the fact that as book stores dwindle, sales like ours are the primary source of books for everyday readers.”

Gratitude for the many volunteers’ efforts was also shown by the library staff and Board of Trustees, who prepared and served dinner to all their dedicated helpers after the doors closed on Saturday evening.

As the 9 am opening approached on Saturday, the excitement was palpable among the expanding line of first-in ticket holders, and true to tradition, as the doors swung open, those 440-plus patrons filed in, some rushing to the exact shelf or stack where their literary treasures laid, and others strolling in, looking around, still deciding where to start.

Among the most dedicated patrons was former Newtown resident James Randall, who had entry ticket #1. He went straight to the vinyl record rack and immediately loaded up a box full of LPs and repaired to a quiet corner of the lobby to begin meticulously studying each one’s condition. He was joined by Matt Kaminskas of Brookfield who had his own box of records to examine.

Charles Ferland, who drove down to the sale from Danielson, finished up and ran his first stock of finds from the rare and collectible book room to his vehicle in the Reed School parking lot, and then decided to return for more. By an hour or so into the festivities, the excitement had already produced a turnover at the ticket sale booth as Judge Bill Lavery and Dr Dave Zolov gave up their posts to Trustees Bob and Kathy Geckle.

While this year’s receipts have yet to be fully reconciled, Ms Kaiser said last year’s event generated about $117,000, to help underwrite services, renovations, and materials for the local library and media center, which continues to work to be self-sustaining.

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