If Horry County librarians have learned one thing about collecting books for its used book sales, it’s never judge a book’s contents just by its cover.
Sure they’ve made the business of books and periodicals their life’s work, but it’s the makeshift bookmarks that raise the eyebrows of even the sharpest of librarians.
“It does happen a good bit,” said Clifton Boyer, director of libraries for Horry County. “We used to have a stack of driver’s licenses.”
Pictures of family members, a handkerchief (unused, thankfully), $200 cash, birth certificates, death certificates, bills, bobby pins and straw are some of the interesting items Horry County librarians have found between the sheets of donated books. But it doesn’t stop there. Non-winning lottery tickets, un-postmarked letters dated 10 years prior, credit cards, obituaries, candy wrappers, paycheck stubs, utility bills, a paring knife and even a book of matches with an escort’s number listed on it round out the bizarre items donors have placed in books to keep their place while reading.
But it takes quite a bit more than simply a book of matches with an escort’s phone number to rattle a librarian, Boyer said.
“People have a perception of what a librarian is, this romantic notion of an old woman with a bun in her hair and reading glasses,” he said. “If you realized what we see on a daily basis... nothing really shocks us.”
There will be between 500 and 800 books for people to peruse through during the inaugural Horry County Memorial Library used book sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Aug. 8 at the library’s administration building, 1008 Fifth Ave., Conway.
Hardbacks are $1 and paperbacks are 50 cents. The sale, which will benefit the library system’s endowment fund, is similar to the sales conducted at area libraries. Only this one is the result of weeding several branches, or going through books that haven’t been checked out in a while or are duplicates. Weeding is necessary to make room for more books, Boyer said.
He said making money at the sale may be a challenge because it’s being held at the administration building, which is not a regular building library patrons visit.
“We don’t know how successful it will be because we don’t have any traffic through here,” Boyer said.
It’s not just the bookmarks that catch the attention of librarians. Sometimes they’ll find a unique item like a copy of the first edition of “Miracle on 34th Street.” A similar copy sold at auction in 2009 for $550.
Then, there was a set of 3-inch-by-3-inch books, copyrighted in 1920 and leather bound. But those weren’t the oldest, the county reports. Some books dated as far back as the early 1800’s.
Trivia books are pretty popular, be it New Jersey trivia, golfer’s trivia, cat trivia and dog trivia. Then, of course, there are a few sketchy items like a book that came in with “stems and seeds in it,” a field guide to mushrooms with highlighted sections “covering all of the hallucinogenic varieties with...very trippy drawings of mushrooms and skeletons,” and the unrated Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee sex DVD, which Elaine Coates, office manager for the library system, points out, “a reseller bought that one within an hour of it going out.”
Boyer said Horry County librarians closely monitor what is put on the sale floor to make sure it is safe for a wide range of people.
“We try to be open to all kinds of things we receive,” he said, “but we also keep in mind that we can’t put that all out there.”