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Pequot director turning page on eve of summer book sale

Published 4:45 pm, Thursday, July 26, 2012

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  • Pequot Library Executive Director Dan Snydacker poses in the largest of the tents set up on the library lawn for this year's summer book sale, which opens Friday. He will step down as executive director at the end of July shortly after the conclusion of this year's sale. Photo: Meg Barone / Fairfield Citizen freelance
    Pequot Library Executive Director Dan Snydacker poses in the largest of the tents set up on the library lawn for this year's summer book sale, which opens Friday. He will step down as executive director at the end of July shortly after the conclusion of this year's sale. Photo: Meg Barone

 

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PEQUOT SALE, BY THE BOOK The 52nd annual Summer Book Sale at the Pequot Library, 720 Pequot Ave., is Friday, July 27, to Tuesday, July 31. Friday: 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; all items double the marked price. Saturday: Sunday: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; All items priced as marked. Monday: 9 a.m-6 p.m.; all items half price. Tuesday: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.; $5 per bag. Info: Call 203-259-0346 or visit www.pequotlibrary.org
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The 44th annual Pequot Library Summer Book Sale was only weeks away when Dan Snydacker first arrived at the historic Southport library in June 2004 to assume the role of executive director.

Snydacker wasn't scared off by the chaos and workload of the library's major fundraiser, which features about 150,000 books, LPs, CDs, DVDs and audio books. He embraced it and this month he will close his chapter as executive director with the library's 52nd annual Summer Book Sale -- his ninth at the library helm -- which opens Friday and concludes Tuesday.

"The first thing I did when I first came to the Pequot Library was experience the book sale, and it's a huge undertaking," Snydacker said of the event, one of the largest in New England. "There are so many details that have to be taken care of ... and it overwhelmed me. I wasn't prepared for it. I thought, `Oh my God. What have I gotten myself in for?' "

Snydacker, who announced in June he will step down from his current role, however, plans to continue to work with the library as a part-time curator of its special collections.

He might even volunteer to help with future book sales, he said.

"Now, in 2012, this thing in my mind has changed from something that I dread to something that I really love and look forward to. The workload is still hard, but I see the bigger picture, and I see how it's one of those things that makes community," Snydacker said.

He has also come to recognize the magic of the book sale, which often serendipitously brings together people and books.

Snydacker recounted the story of a longtime volunteer who received a special book as a birthday gift from her husband in the 1950s, but lost it the next day in New York racing for a train.

"Fast forward to the 1980s. She's straightening up after the set-up for one of the midwinter (book) sales in the auditorium by herself and sees the title of the book that her husband gave her. Not imagining what was about to happen, she reached up thinking it was another copy of the book. She opened it up, and there on the inside front cover was the inscription of her husband to her. So after 30 years, this woman was reunited with a gift from her husband, long since gone," Snydacker said.

"It's just a great story about place, about books, about the magic of books. Every year there are tons of stories like that," he said.

Every year there are also tons of books. Dozens of volunteers unpacked 4,300 boxes in two days last weekend for this year's sale.

"The bonds that I have now with these volunteers are the things that I really treasure out of my time at the Pequot ... These people are pillars of the library," he said, adding that there are also many new faces. "It's a dance between tradition and innovation," Snydacker said.

Innovation of another kind may affect future book sales, Snydacker said.

"Technology is going to impact these book sales. There's no question. It may have already, although we're still getting incredible amounts of donations," he said.

"We've got an anonymous community out there that gives us, easily, it's safe to say, 300,000 books every year. They drive up morning, noon and night to the sheds out here. We don't see them half the time because it's after hours," he said.

Some of the books don't make the cut for the sale, he said. Some of the donations are wet and mildewed, and get tossed. "And we don't do National Geographics and we don't do computer textbooks from five years ago, so we do some screening. What we put out is about half that, about 150,000 books. That's an incredible generosity; just an ongoing stream of gifts to the library ... We swim in a sea of books," Snydacker said.

Throughout his tenure, Snydacker said patrons have donated some special books. Most find their way under the tents or into the auditorium, where books are sorted into about 30 categories. In 2010, someone donated I.O. Stokes' "The Iconography of New York," which he called, "A very wonderful book ... We were very excited to see this because it's quite rare, and then I checked my files and it turned out the library already had a copy of this. It speaks to the strength of our special collection." Organizers decided to sell it, but not at the book sale. "We felt it needed a bigger, broader audience," he said. They took it to Christie's auction house, which sold it for about $5,000.

The library also sometimes adds to its circulation a few books that are donated for the sale.

"Last year there were 10 or 15 items that we put into our historical children's collection."

This year's sale will include about 75 to 100 copies of "50 Shades of Grey," a wildly popular series of three books dubbed by some as "mommy porn." On the flip side, he said, "there are books out there that you'll not find anywhere else ... Some of them are very limited editions, and one of the great joys of coming to this book sale is that serendipity, browsing and finding books that you didn't even know you were looking for," Snydacker said.

Snydacker said book lovers from around the nation come to the Pequot book sale -- and a few from abroad. Some arrive days before and sleep in their vehicles waiting for the event to begin, he said.

"Everyone has a great experience at the book sale. People get to bond over books," said volunteer Andrew Goebel, 23, of Fairfield.

One dealer from Brooklyn purchases so many books that the library staff dedicates two volunteers to follow him around and box up his choices.

"I give an award for the people who come the farthest and we take their picture ... This lady from France plans her vacation to visit family here in Fairfield around the time of the book sale. We get people routinely from the West Coast, from Canada, from Boston ... They very rarely leave disappointed, especially if they come on Friday," he said.

Madlyn Karpinski of Fairfield, a volunteer for 19 years, said the turnout is encouraging. "I love to read. Books are a great pleasure to me and it's great to know that other people are reading. They're buying up these books. They come in droves," she said.

About 10,000 people will come through between Friday and Tuesday, which will bring to an end Snydacker's last official book sale.

"I'm a little bittersweet about it. It's a lot of hard work, and I'll miss it," he said.

Snydacker plans to write several books, including one on the history of the book. In seven or eight years from now, Snydacker said he looks forward to seeing copies of his book donated back to Pequot Library, and having his own book included in its book sales.

PEQUOT SALE, BY THE BOOK

The 52nd annual Summer Book Sale at the Pequot Library, 720 Pequot Ave., takes place from Friday, July 27, to Tuesday. July 31. Hours and pricing follow:

Friday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; all items double the marked price

Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; items priced as marked

Monday, 9 a.m-6 p.m.; all items half price

Tuesday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.; $5 per bag

For more information, call 203-259-0346 or check http://www.pequotlibrary.org