Into the Wild

BookSwap 01

The preparations were fierce for my expedition. I wore comfortable shoes.  Downed two-and-a-half cups of coffee.  Black. I brought a reusable shopping bag.  Just in case – I stashed two other plastic ones in my pocket.  Then, I set out, across the frozen tundra (okay, 32 degrees, barely) in search of the most precious resource – Books.

Okay, so Bargain hunting and thrift shopping give me an adrenaline rush – but it’s nothing compared to the full on surge of energy and territoriality I feel at a Book Swap.

As far as I can tell, it’s not just me.  People start lining up early to get at what’s there – “the best”.  They hoard half-wanted novels in the bags they brought in order to keep the enemy from possessing Bel Canto, or Middlesex or The Secret Life of Bees.

There’s the smirking going on – Someone brought that trashy novel?!   And the curiousity – Who else in Salem is also interested in Paul Tillich’s Systematic Theology? And the sheer triumph when you find exactly what you’ve been looking for – Firetruck Books!

I volunteered with Salem Recycles this morning at their biannual FREE Book Swap held at the Salem Community Center on Broad Street.  Let’s be honest – the perks of volunteering at this kind of event are many.

1. Free Coffee. (Yes, in addition to the other 2 cups I drank this morning.)

2. Free Books.

(Does one need anything else?)

As a volunteer I got to wear a super-stylish apron with Salem Recycles emblazoned accross the front – and take a sneak peek at the books dropped off the night before between 6pm and 7pm, while I sipped coffee and made tasteful arrangements on each table.  I also got to discuss favorite books with other book lovers – “Oh, you love Barbara Kingsolver too!”

BookSwap 02  BookSwap 03   BookSwap 05

But, as soon as the doors were opened, I, along with my fellow volunteers got to see our thoughtful layouts quickly become scrabbled messes of books three and four deep.

Over in the children’s section I was drowning in early readers, board books, and Clifford the Big Red Dog – but, that’s where the adrenaline (and those cups of coffee) really helped out.  Sorting out chaos, and seeing satisfied readers pick out Star Wars books, Dr. Seuss, and plenty of other favorites was a thrill.  I love to read – and I am so happy seeing others who love to read too.

BookSwap 06 
BookSwap 08 
BookSwap 07  BookSwap 09
BookSwap 10
BookSwap 11
These are the books our family got – minus the board books my son was already reading and wouldn’t let me take away to photograph.
Sad you missed the swap? Join us for the next one!  Follow Salem Recycles on Facebook for news and updates about upcoming events.
– Beth Melillo

8 responses to “Into the Wild

  1. Bel Canto touched me deeply and spiritually and intimately. I can’t recommend it more. I am in awe and wonder about that book. It’s still too soon to read it again, I can barely look at it. I feel like my soul is still processing that novel.

    Coffee. Books. Solid.

  2. Somebody explain this to me please: Why does the Salem Recycling Committee put so much of their energy into hosting these book swaps? Do people actually throw books away and is this a major environmental issue? Are people walking away from this event understanding the importance of recycling, reusing, reducing, and repairing things, etc or are they going for the free books and coffee? Can’t a table or a box do this job (you’ve been to Cambridge right?) Book swaps are fine, but for this to be a priority of the committee when there are huge environmental issues to deal with (single use plastic) in the community, seems a preoccupation. It seems to me that the committee should be promoting the library, used book stores, maybe digital reading devices (?), Amazon used books, and give the job of hosting this otherwise nice community event to another group to run. Move on to bigger problems Recycling Committee and stop preaching to the choir, I think.
    Most of Salem is probably not even recycling and if they are, are not doing it
    Full disclosure: I was on the committee from Feb. to Sept of 2011 and became a victim of it’s dysfunction.

    • Interesting thoughts Bradley. Since I’m new to Salem Recycles myself (only started to be involved in November, but knew about it for a little while) – I can’t speak for the historical focus of Salem Recycles.

      However, to me it seems as though the focus is on meeting people where they are at Recycling wise – and from what the committee seems to believe – people have barely begun to take first steps. That is – they are still in the “buy buy baby” stages of the American lifestyle – rather than taking the first step to Reduce their purchases – hence the opportunity to swap and receive something new in return for something old.

      Therefore, my answer (and I would like to state that I, in no way, speak for the entire Salem Recycles committee) to the question “Is this a major environmental issue” is Yes, and No. The issue doesn’t seem to me to be one of throwing away books – but one of attempting to break the cycle of consumerism which says “I’m bored, let me buy something new.” Is it also an attempt to introduce neighbors, and does it get a portion of the community involved in a non-consumer act? Yes. It does.

      Are people on the committee concerned about single use plastics? From my perspective, yes. All the people I’ve come in contact with on the committee have mentioned it, and they invited many (via their facebook page) to become informed by watching the film “Bag It.” Have they gone any further steps such as lobbied the city of Salem to impose a tax on bags? I don’t know. Are there bigger fish to fry than people who buy too many books? Probably. Again, as stated, I’m new to Salem Recycles and don’t know what the five year game plan is – or if there is one.

      I’m certainly interested also in hearing some of your ideas for reducing single use plastics in Salem – or what you think the issues might hinge around. I have this (still in the planning stages) Earth Day project in mind for making a poster board about plastic bags and parking myself in front of MarketBasket and engaging anyone who will talk in why they use plastic and not reusable and possibly getting them to take a “plastic bag pledge” to commit to cutting their bags in half. If I could find somebody to donate 100 reusable bags – that would be great too. (Again, working stages.)

      Overall, it sounds like you’re frustrated by the smallness of the actions in the wake of a large global issues – to that I would say you’re not alone. Most people feel some sort of cognitive dissonance with the message of “Change a lightbulb, restore creation. Really?! It’s that simple – well the planet will be saved by next Friday then.”

      Or perhaps you’re just frustrated with the committee. In which case, I’m sorry I can’t help you. Best of luck advocating for sustainability and recycling – it sounds like you care a lot, and that’s commendable.


  3. Pingback: Sweet Tooth and a book swap | lcarslibrarian·

  4. This was the first time that we attended and we loved it! We donated a bag of books and went home with twice that. I already have a donation box started in the garage for September. Thank you for your volunteerism! It made a difference for many!

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