Kenner — Book lovers who walk into the Pontchartrain Center during the Friends of the Jefferson Parish Library Big Book Sale this weekend might think they’ve hit the mother lode, with more than 65,000 items for sale, including not only used books but CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes and even records.
What they might not know is how many book lovers have toiled during the past six months to provide them with so many choices in the sale that started Thursday and runs through Sunday.
Peg Phelps, treasurer of Friends of the Jefferson Parish Library, described the work that goes into the semi-annual sale of books and other items donated by the public, the library system itself and Barnes & Noble bookstore.
A corps of about 35 volunteers deals with donated items on a daily basis, looking up their cost online, pricing them and sorting them into one of 75 categories.
While some of the books are stored at the main branch, as the amount swells, the group resorts to a storage unit.
Getting ready for the sale is another vast undertaking that involves about 75 people, including some volunteers who only work during the setup. With their help, Friends is able to set up the sale in a single day.
Volunteers also staff the sale itself, which runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. except for the final day, Sunday, when it begins at noon and ends at 5 p.m.
Then volunteers must clear out what’s left.
The effort pays off for the library system. Last year, Friends donated $100,000 to the system, Phelps said, money that was raised through the two sales, online book sales and a gift shop staffed by the group.
Book dealers gravitate to the sale because they can pick up items at bargain prices for resale. But collectors who think they might get a treasure for a song should know that the volunteers are diligent in determining the value of their wares, and rare volumes are priced accordingly.
Phelps said she hasn’t seen any diminished interest in buying books in the digital age. Despite devices such as Kindle and other e-readers, interest remains high.
“We know that at some point, that will cut into our business,’’ Phelps said. But judging from the turnout at the sale, “a lot of people still buy books.’’
Even old technology like VHS tapes are popular with customers.
“We had about 300 people running in on the first day, and the first person was there before 7 a.m.,’’ she said.