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Needle in a Bookstack
by Nathan Orme
Sep 09, 2009 | 535 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Nathan Orme -
A 1937 Popeye comic is one of the many books for sale this weekend at the monthly sale of the Washoe County Friends of the Library.
Tribune/Nathan Orme - A 1937 Popeye comic is one of the many books for sale this weekend at the monthly sale of the Washoe County Friends of the Library.
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Betty Watts wishes she could go back in time and stop her mother from making a mistake.

The mistake probably wasn’t life-altering, but now as a member of the board of directors of the Washoe County Friends of the Library, Watts sees the error her mother made in throwing away old comics.

“I can remember buying the first edition of ‘Wonder Woman’ the first time it came out,” Watts said Wednesday as she stood in the Friends of the Library book warehouse on Gentry Way.

Watts and a bevy of other volunteers were busy sorting books for this weekend’s monthly book sale and for next month’s Book Sale Bonanza, the Friends of the Library’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

“In October, we host a sale that lasts 10 days,” Watts said. “We fill up a 13,000 square foot space with books. It takes over three weeks to get ready for that sale.”

This weekend’s sale will be smaller in scale but still with great book bargains — prices start at 50 cents. But for those who are in search of a something a bit special or unusual, there are plenty of gems to be found.

At the entrance to the book warehouse is a small glass case holding several of the more rare and expensive items for sale. Prominent among them are two comics from 1937, Disney’s “Pluto the Pup” and “Popeye” published by King Features. The two brightly colored books are priced $125 and $100 respectively. Also in the case is an instruction manual titled “The Model T Ford, 1915 edition,” selling for $100. Sitting next to the case was a very old copy of “Grant Thornburn America” selling for $125.

Nearby in the classics section was a copy of “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London. The hardback had a worn brown cover and the copyright page appeared to be from the early 1900s. A few shelves away was a copy of “The Wizard of Oz” illustrated by Evelyn Copelman. Selling online for around $20 but from the Friends of the Library for just $3, Copelman’s colorful drawing pops out from the inside cover showing Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion headed down the yellow brick road toward the Emerald City. While this edition is still in publication and can be purchased new, there is something magical about holding the 1956 copy with its cover adorned with little castles being sold to benefit the Washoe libraries.

Moving to something more current, in a section on American politics was a book called “The Senator: My Ten Years with Ted Kennedy,” written by Richard E. Burke, a former staffer of the recently deceased senator. Other non-fiction includes a well-read copy of Truman Capote’s crime classic “In Cold Blood,” printed in 1965. There is also a collection of presidential papers from the U.S. Government Printing Office that spans the presidencies of Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

“You can tell who wasn’t in office very long,” Watts said, pointing out the leaders whose volumes are smaller.

For those who prefer something they can hear or watch on a medium that is on its way out or gone, there are plenty of cassette and VHS tapes and records to peruse. An interesting find in the record bin was a Time Life music release called “The Music of Today” — from 1967. In excellent condition, the box set included a book that discussed the cultural “generation gap” that was forming at the time between the young people and their parents. It includes discussions of work by artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol and the albums contain music by composers such as Aaron Copland and Benjamin Britten.

The most valuable item Watts ever saw come through the Washoe County library was a first edition of the classic Civil War love story “Gone With the Wind.” Inside the book, she said, was a letter written by the book’s author, Margaret Mitchell. Such items of extreme value to go auction houses, Watts said.

Watts said the monthly sales, such as this weekend’s, usually only attract a local crowd, but the bonanza in October often attracts dealers and collectors from all over. The inventory and the sales are primarily local, as is the benefit.

“We rely on donations and the organization is run completely by volunteers,” Watts said. “Aside from paying off expenses, all of the money we make goes back into the libraries. Last year, we were able to put $104,000 back into the library system.”

The book sale will take place this Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, it will run from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Members of the Friends of the Library can go to the book sale beginning at 9 a.m. On Sunday, the sale runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The sale will be held at the Friends of the Library warehouse located at 125 Gentry Way in Reno. For more information about the sale or donating books, call 324-5522.

Tribune reporter AnnElise Hatjakes contributed to this report.

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