Counting yourself among the "Friends of the McCracken County Public Library" has its perks - some might call them benefits - not least of which is getting first dibs at the Friends' semiannual book sale.
"Sometimes you'll find something really special," said Friends of the Library Summer Book Sale coordinator Jennie Boyarski, "and you're usually not expecting it."
Boyarski, who has been a Friend since 1998 when she retired as the director of information and library services at what is now West Kentucky Community & Technical College, once found an old St. Paul Lutheran Church cookbook that included recipes from some of her relatives who had long since passed. Boyarski said she isn't much of a cook, but she was thrilled to find the cookbook and share it with her nephew's wife, who is.
"That's just one example of the treasures you can sometimes find, things you'd never run across in a big bookstore," she said.
Friends treasurer Dewey Burger said that although they're still waiting on a few invoices from local school libraries, they already know this year's summer book sale surpassed last summer's record of $14,044 raised, one dollar or 50-cent book at a time. Last week volunteers filled the St. Paul Lutheran Church Gym with about 1,100 boxes of books that had been donated by the community and carefully sorted by Friends.
On July 17, Friends were the first to sift through the books in search of new novels or treasures like Boyarski's cookbook, and Friday and Saturday the St. Paul Lutheran Church Gym stayed busy with people of all ages eating items from the church's bake sale, thumbing through boxes of books and talking to one another about their finds. When all was said and done, only about 130 of the 1,100 boxes remained.
Friends President Ann Carneal said that in the 22 years since the Friends began, they've raised nearly $300,000 through book sales and memberships, all of which has gone back to the library to fund public programs, technology, renovations, and, of course, new books.
"We can't take libraries for granted, I can't stress that enough," Carneal said. "So much of our freedom of speech depends on an informed public, and we have access to Internet, books, and multimedia at the library that many people can't afford to pay for on their own, all for free. It provides so many wonderful things for our community. That's why everything we get goes back to the library."
"I've always loved books, and I so appreciate our library and all that it represents," said Burger. "These sales and the months we spend in preparation are just a marvelous time to meet and talk to people. We're just like a family. We so enjoy each other, working together for a common good."
Every once in a while the Friends will get a generous donation of books for the sale, like the large collection of western, science fiction and large-print paperbacks that came from The Book Rack in Murray after it closed this spring. Most of the books in the sale, however, come from individuals in the community. The Friends said that many of their members and repeat sale-shoppers say they like to buy a book, enjoy it, and then donate it right back, creating a self-sustaining source of support for the library.
"We take pride in everything that happens in the library," Carneal said, "and we like to include younger people. We're always thrilled when we see so many young people at the sale. They'll line up at the door to be there first. It's magical. You get books for a dollar, and chocolate too. What could be better?"
For those interested in joining the Friends of the McCracken County Public Library (and all the benefits that entails), visit www.mclib.net/friends/ for membership information; for those who missed this summer's sale, the next sale will be Jan. 23-24 at St. Paul Lutheran Church.
Contact Genevieve Postlethwait, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or at email@example.com.