Community members browsed a collection of more than 500 boxes of donated books from all genres this weekend at the Friends of Chapel Hill Public Library's "Big Book Sale" — its first since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
First held in 1971, the book sale has been a significant source of funding for the Friends of Chapel Hill Public Library, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting and raising money for CHPL.
Karen Curtin, president of the organization, said the Big Book Sale typically generates about $20,000.
These funds are important because CHPL can use them for a wide variety of things, Natalie Ammarell, the manager of Friends' online bookstore inventory, said.
"The most important thing is that the library gets support, financial support, that they can use more freely than their city budget," she said.
Curtin said the proceeds from the book sale will be used for many projects, including extra copies of popular books and additional parking spaces at CHPL.
Funds from past book sales have been used to pay for the Circulator, a truck that acts as a mobile library and travels to different locations in Chapel Hill, Ammarell said.
Marjory Moe, a chairperson of book sales for the Friends, said the organization would not be able to successfully host events like the Big Book Sale without its volunteers.
"The Friends exists because we have willing volunteers," Moe said. "We couldn't do everything we do without the number of volunteers who come in and help us set things up, help us volunteer at the sales themselves, help us take the sales down, work with the donations that come in."
All of the books available at the Friends' sales are donated by community members, Curtin said. She added that the organization receives over 100,000 books each year, which are then resold to raise money for the library.
Moe described this system as an example of a circular economy, because community members buy donated books and then bring them back when they no longer have a use for them.
In this process, the books are "recycled" to be bought at other book sales, she said.
“We have this wonderful collection, this wonderful knowledge that keeps circulating around in the community," Moe said. "There are several people here, especially that I know in the children’s room, and they buy these books, and I also see them come back in donations because their kids have grown out of that grade level and now they're moving on to something else.”
CHPL closed its physical building to the public on March 13, 2020, due to the pandemic. However, it continued to provide contactless services for community members.
During this time, the Friends saw a rise in book donations, Moe said.
“A lot of people gave us a lot of books during the pandemic,” she said. “People were cleaning out closets and bookshelves since they were at home all the time.”
Because they were receiving more books, Ammarell said, the Friends have become pickier about the types of books they received and sold. She said they only accept "nice, fresh books."
At the Big Book Sale on Saturday, customers were eager to browse the variety of books.
Orange County resident Jess Shaver attended the book sale with her two children and said she was very impressed by it.
“There are lots of kids' books that the kids loved looking through and choosing,” she said.
In addition to selling books, the Friends of Chapel Hill Public Library donates many of its books to other nonprofits in the area, such as the Durham-based Book Harvest, which aims to increase the accessibility of books for children.
“If there’s a way for us to get some of these donated books to other organizations we know benefit the greater public, we will do that,” Moe said. “The public library has a great deal of influence on the community.”
Community members can contribute efforts to support CHPL by making donations or becoming members of the Friends of Chapel Hill Public Library. More information can be found on its website.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article’s headline incorrectly stated that this was the first book sale the library has hosted since the pandemic began. The library has hosted other book sales, but this was the first time the annual “Big Book Sale” event occurred. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.
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