The shelves of school libraries have been filled, collectors of rare books have found their oasis, and LSU Libraries has benefitted from nearly $2 million in philanthropic support.

The LSU Book Bazaar began as a small book sale in 1975, a project of the then recently resurrected Friends of the LSU Libraries. The first sale netted almost $600, remembered Anne West, chairperson of both the Book Bazaar and the Book Barn, where donated textbooks and antique books are sold throughout the year. The next year, the Friends branded the event the LSU Book Bazaar and sold more than 20,000 books and records, raising more than $7,000 for the libraries.

Most recently, patrons of the 2013 Book Bazaar bought nearly 70,000 items, enabling the Friends to make a $67,000 gift to the LSU Foundation to support LSU Libraries. “Students and faculty in every discipline benefit from the Friends’ hard work,” explained Elaine Smyth, interim dean of the LSU Libraries.

Over the past 38 years, proceeds from the Book Bazaar have contributed $1.8 million in endowed support for LSU Libraries. Earnings generated from the endowment are the major source of funding for the LSU Libraries to acquire items that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to fit within its annual budget.

West said the sales are used at the dean’s discretion, but typically fund the purchase of special books. “Those funds are necessary. There’s always need for more money in a library.”

In describing the impact the event has had on the community, West said that many schools have been able to establish libraries with books they bought from the Bazaar. “It gets books to people who couldn’t otherwise get them,” she explained.

Families and companies donate books, DVDs, CDs, e-books and albums almost year-round at drop boxes in Kean’s Fine Dry Cleaning locations throughout Baton Rouge. Bookstores in the area donate boxes for transporting the books, the LSU AgCenter donates space for the event, and dedicated workers at the Bazaar volunteer time.

Every year, most tables are left bare by the end of the sale, with items remaining only on the Collector’s Table, for rare books and first editions.

The 2014 Book Bazaar is slated for March 20-22, and will be held at LSU, in the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H Mini Farm and Nelson Memorial Buildings.

Published in Cornerstone Winter 2013 and Spring 2014.

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