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Rare titles, other treasures at Elm Grove library's annual book sale

Proceeds will allow Elm Grove Library to purchase new materials

Jane Kivlin of the Friends of Elm Grove Library unpacks and sorts books donated for the group’s annual book sale.

Jane Kivlin of the Friends of Elm Grove Library unpacks and sorts books donated for the group’s annual book sale. Photo By C.T. Kruger

Feb. 24, 2013

The Friends of Elm Grove Library is hosting its 27th Used Book and More sale in March 8 through 10 at the village's library.

But this isn't your average book sale event.

The annual fundraiser helps support the library and attracts hundreds of people each day of the sale from the Milwaukee metropolitan area.

"We have a large selection of material," said Pat Ruttum, Friends of Elm Grove Library chair. "We have paperbacks, hard covers, large print, and small paper books, CD's, DVD's and video cassettes."

The sale was started by members of FOEGL years ago and featured a small selection of books. It was held twice a year in a small room in the library.

Now, the event offers more than 20,000 items to choose from.

The books are donated by area residents and schools, and at some point, boxes of donations are stacked as high as the ceiling in the library's basement.

Ruttum said preparing for the event is fun, but is also a lot of work, with intense sorting and organization required for each item.

"Our volunteers sort through each box and we separate material by category," Ruttum said.

Ten students from Brookfield East High School helped the team sort through material Thursday, Ruttum said, classifying each book by category, such as art, biography, business, travel, health, games and gardening.

"There's something for everyone at this sale," Ruttum said.

Hidden treasures

All books are priced between 50 cents and $2, with the exception of a few special items priced between $4-20.

"The special table has 450 to 500 books," Ruttum said. "We look up the value for each item we receive. Those that are first edition, have certain pictures, special spinning and no foxing (water spots) are more valuable."

Ruttum said book collectors found items of special value for a steal at past sales, so FOEGL had to learn which books had more value and treat them as such.

"We had to teach ourselves about the art of a book sale," she said. "Book collectors know what to look for, so we had to learn the value of a good book, too."

Some of the items on this year's special table include a signed copy of George Watts' "Insurrection in Milwaukee: The Right to Rise" and first edition titles published in the 1800s and early 1900s.

During sorting, Ruttum said, unexpected treasures are sometimes found in books.

Some of the items are donated after the death of a loved one, and donors are unaware that items of sentimental value are hiding between pages.

"We've found jewelry, money, postcards, bookmarks and photos hiding in books," Ruttum said. "Just a few weeks ago, I found a letter written by Archibald Cox to a supporter, thanking them for their support during Watergate."

Booking benefits

"After the sale, we vote to disperse a certain amount of funds raised to Elm Grove Library," Ruttum said. "There is one condition. Funds must be used for library material only, like new books, CDs, DVDs, etc. Funds are not to be used for construction or other physical upgrades to the library."

Last year's sale raised more than $20,000.

Svetlana Foley, director of Elm Grove Library, said the annual book sale is vital.

"The Friends group is so supportive and passionate," Foley said. "Because of the sale, we are able to offer a variety of material that makes us more unique than other libraries in the area."

Sale information

The sale takes place at the Elm Grove Library, 13600 Juneau Blvd.

A special preview night will be held March 7 from 6 to 9 p.m., free for FOEGL members or $10 membership fee at the door.

Admission is free during the main event, with the sale starting at 9 a.m. on March 8 and 9, and starting at noon on March 10.

All items will be half price March 9, with a "$5 a bag" special on March 10.

For more information, call (262) 782-6717 or FriendsofElmGroveLibrary.org.

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