Searching for Treasure at the Library Book Sale

This year’s annual book sale at the Malibu Library did not disappoint, as people lined up hours before the sale began last Saturday for a chance to buy great books at great prices — some even hoping to find a treasure cast off by a Malibu celebrity.

The line to get into the library was 30 deep by 9:30 — a full half hour before the sale started at 10 a.m. for members of the Friends of the Malibu Library.  Since the best deals are often to be found before the general public gets in, many people bought their $10 membership before the doors opened.  The early birds appeared to be book sellers or collectors who came prepared with boxes — some on wheels — to haul away their finds.  

Vicki Ricci arrived at the sale at 7 a.m. to score self-improvement books. She resells books online and has been to the sale a number of times.

“It’s a nice area, so hopefully there’ll be better books,” Ricci explained. “I’m starting a personal business for some ‘mad money’ and I like the thrill of the hunt.”

First-timers at the sale, Susan Dow and Jim Whisenant, drove in from Newport Beach after finding out about the sale on the internet.  The couple used to run an academic bookstore and came to the sale to replenish their stock. 

“We got driven out of business by the internet,” Whisenant explained. “The academic book market is still pretty strong on the internet. Hopefully you buy them for a dollar and maybe can sell them for eight or ten dollars.” 


Dow explained why she thought it would be worth the drive. 

“I think the location, for one, being in Malibu,” Dow said, explaining why they made the drive. “I think there’s a good chance you’ll find books that are more academic and, since that’s our line, that’s what we’re hoping for.”

At 10 o’clock when the doors opened, it was a mad rush to start hunting for the best deals.  Although most books were for sale for just a dollar — with specialty items a bit more — many dealers whipped out their cell phones and scanned the UPC codes on the books and CDs to get an instant price that they might resell them for on internet sites.

Joyce and Warwick Knox resell books on EBay and drove in from Rancho Palos Verdes.  

“We deal in rare and odd antiquity books that don’t have the scanners because a lot of these book sellers just run through and scan the bar codes, and if they’re worth something, they take them,” Warwick Knox said. “We get books that are in tune with our intellectual interests, being rare and first editions and limited editions.  They’re the most valuable.” Asked if they thought they’d find them in Malibu, Warwick replied, “There’s always a couple of threads of gold.  We like to get into the nitty-gritty roots of the good books — you know — the old stuff. They’re always tucked in amongst the fancy good-looking ones.  They’re like the chalice cup in that ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ movie. The guy says, ‘Pick the chalice that Jesus drank out of,’ and he  picks the most plain, ugly one off the shelf.”

The Friends of the Malibu Library, which conducts the annual sale, has been working for weeks to set up for the two-day event. It nets roughly $5,000, which is part of the $15,000-to-$20,000 contribution the group makes yearly to fund special library programs. 

“It’s our chance to refresh our inventory,” the group’s treasurer, Yvonne Tang, said. “We have a small bookstore in the library, but it’s too small to handle all our supply. The Malibu community is very generous with their donations. We bring everything out and that gives us a chance to clean out our storage and replenish the bookstore. Right before the sale, we’re usually deluged with donations, which we really appreciate. Every penny goes to library donations because we are all volunteers with very few expenses.”

The group pays for the library’s summer reading program for children, sponsors adult and teen programs, and buys most of the periodicals that the county doesn’t provide, as well as other publications requested by the community.

Michael Chesler said he looks for art and jazz books at an “incredible price,” adding, “You look for the needle in the haystack. I usually find the best things in the poorest neighborhoods.  But, there is that element that maybe some star donated some incredible things this year — because in the past, there have been some incredible things.”

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

Related Articles


Latest Articles

%d bloggers like this: