Do Not Open Until July

“Why can’t you do this more than once a year?”

The simplest answer to this question about the Book Fair is “Are you out of your itty-bitty mind?” But people tend to react badlty when I give simple answers, so let’s get complex.

The thing is that we’ve considered other sales. Someone once suggested a weekly book sale: “Just put some shelves and stuff outside on the loading dock every Saturday and sell books!” I had a one-word answer to that suggestion, but it wasn’t the word you think. That word was “January”. They saw the point at once.

Someone else suggested monthly theme sales. Instead of putting out 67 categories in July, we could do just ten categories each month (this would allow for some overlap in the more popular categories, or just for more categories.) I asked how they thought the turnout would be the month we set up Ruggles Hall for Sociology, Political Science, and Psychology. They grumbled a bit, but they got the point again.

Lest you think I have always been a bottleneck in these things (by the way, did I ever explain about bottlenecks? Bottles NEED necks. Otherwise they’d be jars.) I did help out in a summer of extension book fairs. The idea was to take a sampling of one section of the Book Fair and take it on the road: a selection of cookbooks on a table outside a cooking supply store in a mall, for example, or a selection of travel books in a train station. This would allow for some income, but also serve as an advertisement for the Main Event.

Everything would be handled by volunteers, I was told. All I’d have to do was pack up a selection of nice, pretty books in the subject requested, and send them away, and then, of course, take back the unsold books, “if any”.  I grumbled a bit, but I did it.  (If you think packing up ten or twenty boxes of “nice” books in one subject is something that takes no time out of a normal workday, you are probably a supervisor yourself.)

I am sorry to say that this plan wound up in the “Who thought this was a good idea?” file. We had three mini-sales. I believe one involved Transportation and Travel books outside a car dealership. Most car dealerships tend to be in areas where this is little or no foot traffic, so the volunteer worked on his tan and took naps. The volunteer who worked the train station had almost the same problem, except that from time to time there would be swarms of people rushing past him. In the quiet, no-traffic periods people wouild sometimes come look at the books, but just as the conversation was getting to the point of purchase, along would come another trainload of commuters, and wash the customer away.

As for the third venue, let me pass along a tip. If you’re planning to set up a table of merchandise in a mall, it is a good thing to let mall security know about it beforehand. It’s even better to let mall management know about it beforehand.

Anyway, what’s wrong with having a Book Fair once a year? Think of it as a compromise between the book people, who’d like to have it every day, and the people who just want a quiet life and would like to limit it to once a century.

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