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Used Book Sales, Libraries and the Quest for Those Hidden Gems

Cheri headshot

FullSizeRenderI don’t generally frequent used book sales. After all, libraries provide more literary sustenance than my family could ever want. However, I broke this rule about two months ago when my 4-year-old, who has really taken to reading voraciously (the “1 books” as he calls them for the Level 1 readers you find on our Easy Readers shelves), noticed that our local home library was having a book sale. So we went and I followed him around as he stockpiled book upon book into my arms.

Later, as I shipped him and his books off with my husband and other children, I took a few minutes to pop into the room where the Library was selling rare, old and hard-to-find titles. I just love to peruse books from the 18th and 19th centuries, to see their worn and tattered covers, to take in that damp and musty fragrance from their discolored pages. I am transported, once again, to a time (ironically) before I was a librarian when I appreciated better the romance of books.

There was a small section where they were selling old children’s books, and there, to my surprise, I came upon Carolyn Sherwin Bailey’s Old Man Rabbit’s Dinner Party. A treasure from my own childhood! I flipped through it, breathing in its old familiar smell (just like my copy!) and glorifying in the gorgeous illustrations done by simply “Robinson”. It was the illustrations, in fact, that drew me to this book as a child, which, by the way, was a used book sale find then.

Published in 1949, Old Man Rabbit’s Dinner Party is a sweet and simple tale about Rabbit sharing his abundance of food with his less fortunate woodland friends. While I still own my childhood copy, it has always had a torn page or two and this one was in perfect shape. For a few dollars, I bought it. Seemed like a small price to pay to invoke such fond memories and to give me something personal to share with my children.

While this book has value for me, for many reasons, you will not easily find Old Man Rabbit’s Dinner Party on library book shelves. This is certainly not a complaint; books come and go in popularity, interest, taste and timeliness and most libraries don’t have the space to house everything. There are no copies of it in Montgomery County Libraries, and a quick search of the Pennsylvania statewide catalog retrieved only 5 copies of the 1961 version in libraries west of here. You can ask one of the UDPL staff to try to borrow one for you through Interlibrary Loan if you are interested (though, sadly, it probably won’t be as nice as the 1949 copy).

So while I know you and I will continue to use libraries for all of the wonderful books, DVDs, staff and programs they provide, don’t underestimate the hidden gems you may find in book sales. Did you know that the Friends of UDPL has an ongoing sale in the Library? Be sure to check it out the next time you are in and tell us about the wonderful gems you find!