The Battle: The Dealers V. The Friends of the Library

As libraries need their Friends (FOL organizations) evermore desperately, a battle brews between two bookloving types: on the one hand, the angelic "Friends of the Library" and on the other, the evil "Book Dealers."

Here's some lively discussion on the
Amazon boards
about the question of the ethics of booksellers volunteering for Friends book sales and shops.

Thanks to FOLUSA for the heads up.


That's interesting. Redirection limit has been reached, this may be due to a blocked cookie...-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

I've been a Friend of two local lib systems for about 10 years now. I've been a book scout/seller and a Friend to about a dozen other regional lib systems for about 2 years now. (Yes, one precipitated the other.)
Policies and perspectives on dealers/scouts/sellers vary widely not only between friends' groups, but among individual people with authority in a Friends group, and at Friends' sales.

There seems to be two primary roles that Friends groups play for their lib systems: fundraising and community outreach. Groups that have considered fundraising as more important have tended to work with online wholesale sales sites, like, or one of the several large sales outsourcing providers, and have given up on local publis sales events. Groups who see community outreach as more important have created policies that bar dealers/scouts from the sale, or at least from Friends preview sales, limit purchase volume, etc..

Most Friends groups are somewhere in the middle, with individual members perspectives ranging up and down the spectrum. For some, a purchase is a purchase, and every book bought before the end of dollar-a-bag Sunday is one fewer book to send back into storage and not sell again next time. For others, pre-pre-sale culling diminishes the esteem the local tax-supporting community may have for the lib system.

I do volunteer at various Friends sales, and for the most part, they are happy to let me buy what I want before the sale officially opens. I pay the listed price. At other Friends sales, I'm content to queue up a half hour ahead with the other avid readers and scouts. I try to be courteous once inside. I once saw a person load most of a table wholesale into several plastic totes and then spend quite a while in the corner checking the titles with his Blackberry before dumping much of it back on the same table. He effectively kept other people from buying even the books he didn't want for all that time.

But the difference in opinion about scouts at sales could be easily compared to the differences in opinion that I've seen librarians demonstrate about collections policies. High churn popular media on one extreme, archival esoteric reference on the other. Most libraries, and by extension, most Friends groups, try to find the right balance between the two.

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