'Frauds' among bookworms at used-book sale

Published: Friday, November 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 1, 2002 at 12:04 a.m.
The 48th fall edition of one of Gainesville's most lovable events, the Friends of the Library Book Sale, ended Wednesday. After attending three of its five days, I feel like such a fraud.
My omnipresence might suggest I'm some big bibliophile, a voracious reader feasting at one of Florida's premier used-book sales. It projects an image of someone gobbling up classics or scholarly works by the boxful and rushing home to curl up hearthside with them, not to re-emerge until the April sale.
The reality is I can't recall the last book I read cover to cover. I do know the last time I picked up a scholarly work - never.
So what am I doing taking up precious space in the former Chevrolet dealership that now is the Friends of the Library Bookhouse?
Looking for dirty books: Grease-stained shop manuals, dusty automotive histories, yellowed National Geographics that have neat car ads in them.
On Saturday, when I found a gorgeous ad for a 1942 Lincoln Zephyr coupe, it was as if I'd discovered a first-edition Gutenberg Bible.
Others - including son Tony, my book-sale posse - race for the fiction, non-fiction, philosophy and other tables stacked with intellectual tomes. Me? I dash for "Hobbies and How-to," my heart a-flutter at what car-culture treasures might await. This year, the first book I tossed in my box was a 75th-anniversary history of General Motors. My eBay bidders don't need to know I paid only $2 for it.
At a magazine table about as high-brow as Hobbies and How-to, I found a couple of mid-1970s items signed by Richard Petty. Richard Petty - didn't he write "A Study of the Human Race?"
Since the first sale in 1954, the event has contributed almost $2.2 million to the Alachua County Library District for books and other needs, said Friends of the Library President Margaret Wegener.
This year's sale was the best ever, taking in $133,202. After the five-day storm, only a few hundred of the estimated 300,000 items were left.
Not surprising. Everyone but claustrophobes turns out for the opportunity to stand in long lines to get jostled, shoved and unintentionally fondled ("Oops, sorry Ma'am, just trying to get over to 'Cookbooks' ").
The 100 or so volunteers ever toiling at the Bookhouse tell of the more memorable bookworms they've encountered.
Among the harmless regulars are "Tent Man," the guy who always sets up camp outside the Bookhouse on Friday night, hoping to be first in when the doors open at 9 a.m. on Saturday. And "Bathroom Man," who always asks to use the facilities.
"And there are always two or three who come with the idea of irritating everyone around them," said Bob Woodruff, a retired entomologist who manages the biology table.
There also are what the volunteers call the "salters." Woodruff said those are people who on Day One take books from one table and hide them on another. Then they return on half-price day and retrieve the books they salted away, getting bargains on bargains.
And I thought I was the fraud.

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