I'm nursing a slightly pulled back muscle that resulted from toting 18 books from what I like to think of as my personal library to Newburyport's for its Great Old Book March sale.
It took two trips.
I don't part with books lightly. Almost all those in my book cases are non-fictional. I have absolutely nothing against books of good fiction. The problem I have with them is that I can't put them down once I start, and then it's over.
Not so with nonfiction with all those facts and details of the who, the why, the how, the when and the what-not.
I'm not that confident of remembering what it was about them that persuaded me to keep the ones I parted with for as long as I had, but I think it's probably insecurity. I never know what I will need until I need it. Books worth their salt for reading are worth their salt for keeping.
But the time does come when the cases are filled and books are spilling their way to coffee tables, desktops and a chair or two, so there's nothing for it but to offer them up for a good cause, and library book sales are welcome opportunities to share the wealth.
I made the first of my deliveries on Monday morning of what I thought was early in the drive.
Early? What had once been the spacious children's room that runs the width of the original library building was filled wall to wall with books of every description, sorted and stacked, and more would pour in by the beginning of sales on Wednesday.
A half-dozen volunteers were hard at work removing books from the containers of those who brought them and were carrying them off to their allotted classifications.
As luck would have it, I was able to speak with both former Newburyport Mayor Al Lavender on Monday and his wife, Betty, on Wednesday. They were doing this week what they've been doing for a quarter of a century at the library's book sales, but they certainly haven't been doing it alone. They credit the late Mayor Edward G. Molin with providing the early leadership for the annual sales. That undoubtedly led to his leadership in the successful effort to build the new library addition and to renovate the older building we enjoy today.
There are a thousand friends of the library now, and there are always those who join in what has to be one of the most rewarding of civic initiatives for a cause that's more than heart-warming.
There are always new books to be bought. There are the standing operating demands of what has to be one of Massachusetts' outstanding libraries, but there are also related programs and opportunities for community involvement in them..
Result? The library has to be one of the busiest public buildings in the city.
I'm a great believer of the purposes they serve, but I am personally indebted to Newburyport's library because I spent so many hours of my earliest years among its stacks in the original building, learning what I had not known and why it became necessary to learn more.
As far as I know, no one counted the number of books on sale that will end tomorrow afternoon at 2 when the 25th anniversary will be capped by a free raffle of new books by North Shore authors, but I'm tempted to guess there were many more than a thousand. By that time, and if the book sales are as successful as others have been, most will have been sold.
As for those who will have missed the opportunities of the March sale, there'll be another in October.
• • •
Bill Plante is former executive editor of Essex County Newspapers. His e-mail address is email@example.com.