Sue Bach can’t wait for this week’s Friends of the Billings Public Library’s book sale.
“Right now we’re all full to the rafters because we have not had a sale in eight months,” she said.
That’s good news for book lovers, who will have thousands of books to choose from Thursday through Saturday in the library’s Royal Johnson Community Room. The sale on Thursday is for members only and runs from 6 to 8 p.m. The sale is open to all on Friday, when hours at 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Saturday, 10 to 4.
The Friends used to have twice-a-year sales on the third floor of the old library, where there was a huge, empty space and permanent shelving. Since the new library opened on Feb. 1, 2014, things have been a bit different.
The first sale in the new building was in October 2014, followed by another in June 2015, with a smaller sale in October of that year. The only other sale in the new library was held last January. Starting with this week’s sale, the Friends hope to get back to a regular rotation with sales every October and April.
In the new library, the Friends have a room on the first floor where they process and store all donated books on rolling shelves, which gives them a lot of storage in a relatively small space. The room is right off the Book Nook, which is part of the library’s coffee shop.
The Book Nook is kept stocked with donated books that are sold for the same prices you’ll see at the sale this week: $2 for hardbacks, $1 for paperbacks and 50 cents for small paperbacks. And like the sale, the Book Nook has a selection of CDs and DVDs, too.
“Anymore, we’re cheaper than the Rescue Mission, cheaper than Goodwill,” said Bach, who organizes book sales for the Friends. “We’re trying to be in the spirit of sharing books.”
Proceeds from the books they do sell have been used to pay for landscaping and patio furniture at the new building, supplies for the children’s section and support for the first year of the library’s Senior Book Club.
The Friends also support regular programs like Food for Thought, the High Plains Book Awards, Books for Babies and Reading Rocks. The library is also invited to take whatever books it needs from the Book Nook, to replace worn-out books, to add books to the collections or to provide multiple copies for library book clubs.
“It is a tremendous savings to them,” Bach said.
Bach said the Book Nook brings in, on average, $700 a month, while the three-day sales bring in about $6,000 or $7,000. In addition to all the programs the group supports, the Friends pay the library $1,000 a month for their portion of the building.
About 30 people regularly volunteer with the Friends and about 50 volunteers help run the book sale. Bach said they have several thousand books right now, enough to fill about 30 large tables. They don’t keep boxes of books under the tables, she said, because that tends to impede traffic.
Instead, volunteers will be bringing in new books during the sale, with a goal of emptying out the storage space by Saturday afternoon. Bach, a retired English teacher, said the most popular offerings are always modern fiction, and the Friends have a good stock of those books on hand.
And though the sales at the new building are considerably smaller than those at the old, the selection now is generally better.
“We’re a little bit more mindful about what we keep because we have to be,” Bach said.
It costs $20 a year for an individual membership in the Friends of the Billings Public Library, which will get you into the pre-sale on Thursday. You join at the door or join online.