Early birds get in line for annual Smith book sale

March 24, 2007|By Andrew Schaefer | Andrew Schaefer,sun reporter

Some ran. Others walked briskly, carrying boxes or pushing carts.

All of them headed like guided missiles for tables and tables covered with books - 45,000 of them, by one estimate.

"It's the thrill of the hunt," said Catherine Lawrence, a bookseller from Harrisburg, Pa., who paid her $10 to be one of the first through the door yesterday for the annual Smith College Club of Baltimore book sale at the state fairgrounds in Timonium. "Yet there's enough for everyone to be satisfied."

The annual book sale is a fundraiser for an endowment fund at Smith College, a liberal arts school for women in Northampton, Mass. Admission is free - except for the first hour of the three-day event.

The line began to form before sunrise, and by the time the doors opened at 10 a.m. yesterday, it stretched from the fairgrounds exhibition hall's entrance and around the side of the building. Just about everyone seemed ready to hand over the entry fee as quickly as possible so they could join the rush.

"It's the variety and the chance of finding something really rare that's been overlooked," said Ann Brockschmidt, a bookseller from New York City who took her place in line two hours before the doors opened.

For some of the 300 or so early shoppers, the event was serious business. Several booksellers were armed with hand-held scanners that read a book's bar code and gave its price on Amazon.com.

Thomas Yount was just looking for something for his own reading pleasure. The 56-year-old retired schoolteacher from Lutherville said he had been in line since 6 a.m.

But he said he missed out on a collection of works by 19th-century French author Honore de Balzac because he chose the wrong section to peruse first. He ended up paying the dealer who bought the collection more than twice the Smith sale price.

"I'm still happy," he said. "I found something I wanted. That made it worth my while."

The book sale is in its 49th year.

One volunteer, Martha Fulford, flew in from Denver to volunteer because she has a connection to the sale. Her mother, Peggy Fulford, a 1937 Smith graduate, was among those who started the sale.

Martha Fulford said the books were sorted in her family's basement in Baltimore in the early days of the sale. Her favorite picture of her mother shows her working at an early sale at the old North Avenue Market.

Martha Fulford, a 1968 Smith graduate, said yesterday was the first time in 37 years she had been to the sale.

The first sales took place at the North Avenue Market and later moved to the Towson Armory. The sale moved to Timonium in 2002. It raises money for a scholarship for a local student to attend Smith, said consultant Joan Griffith, a 1961 Smith graduate who has volunteered at the sale the past 24 years.

All the items for sale are donated. The club hopes to send about $25,000 to the fund this year, said Griffith. About 85 volunteers help set up and run the sale, she said.

The books are broken down into 35 categories as diverse as mathematics and "Marylandia," with titles as varied as the Bible and The Drag Queens of New York: An Illustrated Field Guide. Records, VHS cassettes, CDs and laser discs are among the other items available.

The sale also includes a silent auction of especially valuable or unusual items, including a signed copy of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's novel, The Apprentice, and a Book of Psalms for the blind printed in 1837, before the advent of Braille. The book features highly raised type. Bidding ends at 6 p.m. today.

andrew.schaefer@baltsun.com

IF YOU GO

The Smith College Club of Baltimore book sale

Today, 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Tomorrow, noon to 5 p.m., all books half-price. Tomorrow, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., all-you-can-carry, $5 for first load, $2 per additional load; no bags, boxes or other aids until past the register.

The Exhibition Hall at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, 2200 York Road, Timonium.

Free admission and parking.

What's for sale: Approximately 45,000 used books; used records, compact discs, VHS cassettes, laserdiscs and other items; some items sold by silent auction, bids due 6 p.m. today.

Proceeds from the sale benefit an endowment fund that helps women from Baltimore attend Smith College in Northampton, Mass.

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