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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

AAUW Used Book Sale: A College Town Tradition


Yesterday marked the end of this year’s AAUW Book Sale, one of the great college town events in State College.   We went several times, buying books at each stop, including half-price day and three bags full on the last day-- Bag Day.   In the end, we refreshed our library with novels by Jorge Amado, Walter Mosley, James Lee Burke, and others, memoirs by Joan Baez,  Dan Rather and Alan Alda, short story collections, an early twentieth century collection of folk music from the Kentucky hills, and a cookbook, among other finds. 
            The AAUW sale has been a tradition in our family since our undergraduate days.  It was founded 54 years ago, initially operating out of a public meeting room in the Methodist church.  It moved to the Penn State HUB student union in the late 1960s and, eventually, took up residence in the new Agricultural Arena out by Beaver Stadium.  Today, it is one of the largest sales of its type on the East Coast, attracting 9,000 book buyers last year. 
            This year, State College residents donated 200,000 books for the sale.   There were tables of biographies, hardcover and paperback fiction, literature, social sciences, history, languages, children’s books, cookbooks, religion, humor, hobbies, travel, philosophy, science fiction, and at least four tables of mystery novels.  There was also a section for CD’s and DVD’s, a couple of tables for old collectibles and, in another room, a  group of rare books.  A student organization managed a food counter that included hot dogs (with and without sauerkraut), pastries, coffee and soft drinks and, a special treat, Penn State Creamery ice cream.   The event covered the entire Ag Arena floor.
            The four-day event was organized by the AAUW, which will soon start collecting books for the 2016 sale.  It is a year-long effort involving 250 volunteers who sort through donated books, organizing and pricing them, and then managing the sale itself.  The sale raises money to support scholarships for young women whose education has been interrupted but who want to return to school to finish their degrees.  It also supports a variety of national and local AAUW initiatives, including other local educational and library projects.
            We’ve never missed the sale since we discovered it around 1970.  Even when we moved to Maryland, we always came back for the AAUW Book Sale.  It is not only an opportunity to find some new books, but provides a chance to see old friends, discover new writers, and enjoy being part of a community.  I am always excited when I come across books from the libraries of faculty members with whom I studied as a student.  This year, for instance, I saw a copy of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas with a note inside that English professor Thomas Rogers bought it in London in 1951. 
             AAUW groups in other college towns also organize annual book sales in their communities. Needless to say, we will be recycling some of our new finds by dropping them off at the AAUW book collection site in the coming months, helping to feed the sale for next year.  The sale is a great tradition that captures the true spirit of a university community.   I hope continues to thrive for many years to come.