This weekend we traveled to the F.O.L. book sale in Cazenovia, New York — traditionally one of our favorite sales for quality books, friendly and competent library and volunteer staff, and all of this in a beautiful setting.
Usually we drive to the sale early in the morning, but this year we made the two-hour trip the evening before, and spent a lovely evening in Cazenovia. It is a small college town set on a pretty lake, with many interesting shops and Inns in town. We stayed at the historic Brewster Inn at the edge of town on the shore of Cazenovia Lake.
Our favorite place to eat lunch after the sale is at the old Lincklaen House, which has a nice outdoor courtyard for dining and always serves up a basket of their fresh homemade popovers.
The sale is held at the library grounds on the main street of town, with books available in three locations: a large tent, the library’s barn, and the basement floor of the library.
We managed to find some nice books at the sale this year, and the sale seemed well attended, or perhaps slightly down from past years. But this sale, along with others like it, has been declining year by year in the quality of books being offered (if you are looking for older first edition or other collectible quality books). This library, like most others, is pre-sorting through donated books and selling the better ones on-line. We were told by a staff member that about half the income from donated books for this library now comes from their own on-line sales, with the other half coming from the open sale. And I can’t find fault with them for doing this…they are doing their best to survive, too.
Many libraries have made other changes, such as keeping their “preview sales” limited to invited members only, or to local residents only, or in the case of a great University sale we used to attend, the sale is now only advertised to faculty, students and staff. This is the end result of being literally stampeded by booksellers who have no manners and little regard for anyone in their way, including the volunteer staff; who are willing to trample others in their race to find desirable books; or those who hoard piles of books and leave their discarded finds in a messy heap, or dominate a whole section of books while using an electronic scanner. It makes management of these events difficult and unpleasant, to say the least. We’ve all seen this happening, and should have seen the changes it foretold.
Up until about a decade ago, libraries and book sellers had a mutually beneficial relationship and appreciation for each other; the book sellers in attendance at book sales were fewer in number, and didn’t usually include impolite, thoughtless people. It’s a shame, but now a good source for collectible books is disappearing, and we as independent book sellers find ourselves in competition with libraries for book sales on the web, in addition to the “mega-listers”, the print-on-demand listers, e-books, and the very sites we are paying to list our books (for some of these sites are now selling mass quantities of their own books as well).
There are many changes afoot in the used and rare book trade, and we have to roll with the punches as best we can.
If you attend F.O.L. sales, it’s important to remember to be considerate of others in attendance, and to be appreciative toward the library staff (mostly volunteers) who work long, hard hours to pull together the event.