Friends of the Library in the Digital Marketplace
By Robert McClelland
It comes as no surprise to those who know them that Ted Taylor, Gary Carpenter, Meg Halter, Claudia Erwin, Laurie Smalley and Phyllis Williams are frequently found working on something interesting in the basement of the library. They are part of a cadre of eBay booksellers on the Friends of the Library team. The use of eBay to reach a broader clientele for more valuable books has come a long way since it began in 2014. Through their diligence, approximately 1,300 books are offered online by the Friends, and that number will certainly increase since, in today’s digital world, so many people now shop for books online. Claudia is quick to point out that this whole project could not have happened without the generous support of Lisa Misosky, of Southland Books, who showed them what to do and how to do it well.
Claudia and Laurie apply their efforts to the task of sorting through the thousands of books donated to the Friends each month. Experience and their “good eyes” enable them to spot material that looks most promising for sale on eBay. After identifying potential items, they play detective—checking on and comparing what these items are being sold for online. Further research to determine each item’s true value is then carried out by Gary, Ted, and Laurie. Meg makes any necessary book repairs to prepare damaged books for sale.
Laurie points out that you can never tell what is going to be valuable as the age of an item or the author aren’t necessarily good barometers for appraisal. A book autographed by its author does not always mean its resale value is enhanced, while items on offbeat topics often sell well. These volunteers are also on the lookout for material featuring topics of local interest and Appalachian lore.
After a final asking price is set, an item is listed on eBay. Phyllis takes over and interacts with the public, packing sold items, mailing them and tracking them to their new home, wherever in the world that may be.
There is real need for more hands in the eBay corner of the basement. Developing the ability to price books accurately takes some time for new volunteers. In time, however, they will certainly enjoy being part of the process. As Laurie says, “Volunteering down here is like going on a treasure hunt.”
Volunteers wishing to join this enterprise may do so by contacting volunteer coordinator, Dolores Philpot.