Keep the Library Book Sale Sacred

The more time I spent on the bookish Internet, the more I’m convinced that even the most rational book people have a thing that they are a curmudgeon about, some totally irrational, difficult to defend position that they, nonetheless, have decided to make into A Big Deal.

If you think that you aren’t a curmudgeon about anything, I suspect you’ve planted your flag in a place that allows you to be curmudgeonly about other curmudgeons. We all love to have something to hate on.

I recently rediscovered my own bookish pet peeve, the thing that turns me into a pearl-clutching old lady yelling at kids to get off my damn lawn: people who use barcode scanners at a library book sale.

Library book sales are a sacred event. I love to get there right when they start and spend as much time as I can spare wandering the carefully (and sometimes not-very-carefully) curated tables of old and donated books. I love finding a hidden gem nestled among the beat up cookbooks and dated fiction. I love walking out with a bag full of books for less than $10. And I love that going to a sale supports my local library.

But the joy of a library book sale is tainted and soon as I hear the first tell-tale beep of a scanner browsing through the social science section for gently used textbooks to sell. My blood pressure goes up measurably when I walk by a guy (they’re almost always guys) crouched down by a few cardboard boxes, sorting out a stack of books into buy and abandon piles. As I peruse the tables, I give any book scanners the biggest and most obvious stink eye I can because, my gosh, that sort of capitalist behavior is totally against the spirit of what a library book sale is. It’s practically sacrilegious.

But the trick to remaining a lovable crank like Carl from Up rather than a disgruntled scary dude like Clint Eastwood in Gran Tornio is to recognize that your curmudgeonly behavior is irrational. You have to know that the line in the sand you’ve drawn is easily erased and relevant only to you. And you have to find the other curmudgeon’s who are willing to stand behind that line and die with you as the inevitable waves of your own irrationality come crashing over.

I know that there’s nothing morally wrong about taking advantage of books priced well below their worth (even though I hate it), and I know that book scanners aren’t really the kind of people who kick puppies or pop toddlers’ balloons. But obviously the world would be better off without them.

Now, who’s with me? (Please, let there not be crickets…)

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