Books will sell 'by the foot' at Friends of Towson Library's annual book sale

On the last day of Friends of Towson Library’s annual used book sale, co-chair Pam Bowman won’t bother with price tags; the books will be measured by the foot.

“I’m telling you, I check out with a yardstick,” Bowman said.

The book sale, in its 24th year, is scheduled to start on Thursday, April 19 and run through Sunday, April 22 at the Towson Library, in the Wilson and Towson rooms.

The event is the primary fundraiser for volunteer-based Friends of the Towson Library, which provides the Towson Branch Library with money for facility upgrades, book clubs and other community events, Bowman said. Last year, the event raised about $15,000, she said, all of which goes to the library.

“It’s a terrific annual event,” said Tyler Wolfe, branch manager at the Towson Library. “Not only does it raise funds for our branch, but it’s also just a fantastic event in and of itself.”

All the libraries in Baltimore County have Friends groups, “but as far as I know, we’re the only one with a book sale,” Bowman said.

The Friends group collects and organizes book donations at the library from June through March every year. Though Bowman did not have an exact count of the number of books that will be sold this year, the figure is in the thousands.

All of the books are privately donated and new or gently used — any older books, Bowman said, will be donated to other organizations. Used library books are also not sold at the sale.

It takes volunteers and about four or five hours to set up the sale, Bowman said, estimating that approximately 30 volunteers plus the 20 Friends board members are involved in making the sale happen. “It’s a lot of work,” she said. “It’s overwhelming, physical work.”

Volunteering comes with perks: As Wolfe helps set up the sale, he said, “I’ll be cruising, making mental notes of what I’ll be coming back for.”

Many of the volunteers are former Baltimore County Public Library employees, he said.

On Thursday, the first day of the sale, the 175 Friends of Towson Library members will be able to take first pick. The general public can also buy an entrance ticket on Thursday for $10.

Friday through Sunday, entrance is free. Prices range from $1 to $4 per book on Friday and decrease each day — until Sunday, when Bowman and the other volunteers will pull out their yardsticks and sell stacks of books for $4 per foot.

Popular genres being offered include coffee table books, cookbooks, biographies, military history books and audiobooks, Bowman said.

Children’s books, in particular, almost always sell out, she said. Teachers come from city schools and buy a “ton of books,” and in recent years she has seen more parents who home-school their children looking for materials, Bowman said.

After Sunday, Bowman said the leftover books will be donated to the Maryland Book Bank, an organization that currently operates out of the Calvert Street building that houses The Baltimore Sun and distributes free books to families, teachers, schools and other organizations.

Bowman, who has been working on the book sale for at least seven years, said she does it because she loves the library.

“I’ve always used it, my whole life,” she said. “When I retired, I felt like this was a good thing to do to give back.”

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