‘Legendary’ book sale to kick off Thursday
As community events go, the Shepherdstown Community Club’s annual book sale is legendry. Part of the reason for that legendary status is due to the massive quantity of books donated. According to Mark Kohut, a book gatherer for the SCC, the real reason is less obvious.
“It seems that no one in the community can really remember exactly when it began,” Kohut said.
Regardless its origin date, the annual book sale has been a great success in the community for more than a decade.
“The number of books has increased each year and we probably have about the same number so far this year as last year. And last year was a record,” said Nancy Stewart, another book gatherer for the SCC. “We often get people’s lifetime libraries. An example of that was last year when a woman from Funkstown (Maryland), whose father had recently died, donated an entire storage unit of books. She didn’t want to give them to just anybody, she wanted to find a place that had meaning for her. Her father loved Shepherdstown, so that made it an easy decision.”
While the book sale – which begins with a first night look on Thursday evening – sees its fair share of staple titles, there is still a vast array of unique finds.
“Some are novels, some old magazines. When Dr. (Craig) Winkel passed away, his widow asked what could be done with his old medical books, so we have those,” said Mike Austin, a SCC member who is instrumental in the collection of the books. “Some books are old and look damaged, but they might be treasures worth saving. There is a couple in town that helps us tease out whether something donated has any significant value or history.”
And history is often found in the sorting process, as was the case last year when the club stumbled upon a piece of paper tied to a former President of the United States.
“You never know what is going to show up. Last year they found a personal note of correspondence with Abraham Lincoln,” Kohut said. “There was also a limitedly published book for Ted Kennedy of essays and notes of appreciation for his life’s work. All of the pieces were signed by those who wrote them – we are still trying to find the value for that piece.”
According to Kohut and Stewart, the monies raised by the annual book sale go to support the projects of the club directly.
“(The funds go to) everything the community club does for the community. The bulk of the expenses we have go toward maintaining Morgan’s Grove Park – which the community club, not the parks department maintains. It also helps upkeep the War Memorial Building, which is a minimum of $3,000 per month just to break even on monthly expenses,” Kohut said. “Every two years we have to treat the ash tree. The price to treat those runs upward of $12,000 per year. And we have the largest living ash tree in this part of the country. It is very much worth preserving. We also have put in a grassland bird sanctuary with the Potomac Valley Audubon Society,” Stewart added.
As the book sale begins to take shape later next week, sale goers should prepare to find just about anything they could hope to buy.
“This is not a sale about getting a bunch of donated books on tables, we take great interest in the types of books we get; those books are targeted to specific audiences within the community. We are really trying to match people up with books,” Stewart said. “We take real ownership of these things.”
The most exciting aspect of the sale, according to Kohut, is that among those 30,000 to 40,000 books, buyers are sure to learn something about their town – and neighbors.
“One reason the book sale perfect for this community is that you are buying your neighbors books. If you live here and love it, you are going to be able to find and read books your neighbors also loved,” Kohut said.
Austin echoed Kohut’s sentiment.
“The sale cuts across the interests of various members of the town,” Austin added. “We really hope this helps make Shepherdstown a book town. That has been one of our goals from the beginning, to bring a literary love to the community.”
The Shepherdstown Community Club’s annual Legendary Book Sale kicks off with a “First Night Look” on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the War Memorial Building on the corner of German and King streets. The sale continues Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The book sale is free to attend, with a $10 admission to the Thursday evening “First Night Look.” Each child who attends will also receive a free book of their choosing.
For more information, donation pickup, drop-offs or to volunteer, call Stewart at 646-519-1941, or Kohut at 646-519-1956.
“Whatever you know Shepherdstown to be, you are sure to find some corresponding books at the book sale,” Kohut added.