Selling books at the library helps fuel a lifelong love of reading

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Karrie Partin had a well-rehearsed plan for the annual Friends of the Abilene Public Library book sale.

“I go early on the first day. I had to be there first,” Partin said. That’s when she would find books for her students, which would be quickly picked up, she said. Then it moved on to specialized books for itself – spirituality and biographies, for example.

“I save the novels for Sunday.”

And when he wasn’t shopping, Partin was volunteering at sales, straightening books or working the cash register.

Those plans changed a bit this year, however, with Partin’s retirement after more than 38 years as a teacher at Abilene ISD. She will not be shopping for a classroom, but rather taking on volunteer, set-up and volunteer coordination responsibilities under the direction of Book Sale Chair Martha Magee.

It’s a natural step for Partin, who developed a love of books early on that will last a lifetime.

born to read

Originally from Wichita Falls, Partin’s family moved to Kansas when she was a freshman and she missed some reading classes.

“I was way behind, so I had to catch up,” Partin said. “By the end of the school year, I had read the second class books. Since then, it has been important to me.”

Growing up, she fell in love with Beverly Cleary’s books, such as “Ramona the Pest” and “Beezus and Ramona,” as well as the Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew series.

“We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so we didn’t travel a lot,” Partin said. “So I could read, and it took me, in my imagination, to a lot of different places.

“There’s this weird thing about me, I love words. I love language, I love noticing how things are described, I love different dialects, I love word pictures.”

You never know what you'll see or see at the Friends of the Abilene Public Library book sale.  This year's sale starts on Thursday and ends on June 19.

In high school, after her family moved back to Wichita Falls, she knew she wanted her career to involve reading and considered a career as a writer after serving as co-editor of her school newspaper.

Education ended up winning.

“I was very involved in church and teaching children in Sunday school, and I did a lot of babysitting, so I decided I wanted to teach,” Partin said. “And I knew I could keep reading books every day.”

In 1980, she began attending Abilene Christian University to major in education. After graduating, she began teaching third grade at Johnston Elementary (now Purcell Elementary), then at Jackson Elementary (now Alcorta Elementary).

Childhood favorites and more

When her own kids started going to college, she started tutoring high school summer students to help pay the bills, she said.

It was then that she was introduced to the book sale by fellow teacher Jim Pizzorno, a member of the Friends board of directors.

“I started coming, then I got hooked,” said Partin, who found the sale to be a great resource not just for her own library, but for her classroom.

“I bought a bunch of Beverly Cleary books that I liked…so I had a whole bunch of them. My kids loved the Percy Jackson novels…so I found several. You really have to watch it if you I’m looking for something specific.”

“What’s really neat is that I found some books by accident that were just life-changing,” Partin said, her favorite book-selling find being a copy of Louise Erdrich’s “The Round House.”

Andrew Gray, 4, reads one of his books while waiting for his mother to finish browsing through the books during the 2017 Friends of the Abilene Public Library book sale at the Abilene Convention Center.

“That drew me to writing. She’s one of those writers that you can’t wait until their next book comes out. Now I’ve read pretty much every book she’s written.”

A self-confessed book snob, Partin said she usually sticks to Pulitzer Prize winners or books that enjoy other major recognition, with other favorites including works by Wendell Berry, Henri Nouwen and Robert Bly; although his all-time favorite is Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.

“It’s the best book ever written, apart from the Bible,” Partin said. “In addition to the Bible.”

Bewitched by books

For Partin, the sale offers her the opportunity to be more adventurous and explore works she wouldn’t otherwise consider for the chance to find a hidden gem.

“It’s a lot of risk taking if you buy a book and pay $20,” Partin said. “If you only pay a dollar for it and it turns out it’s not that great, you haven’t wasted much.”

While admitting to buying too many books, Partin said his family joked that his collection helped keep him alive.

“I don’t want to die because I have too many books left to read,” Partin said, adding a quote from Lisa Wingate’s novel “The Book of Lost Friends”: “I always knew that if there was has magic in this world, it is contained in the books.”

“I am grateful to the Friends of the Library Association, the Pizzorno family and Martha Magee in particular,” Partin said. “Selling is a huge year-round business.”

“I can’t wait to do my little part…so that more people can hold and read these magical things called books!”

Nathaniel Ellsworth is a generalist reporter for Abilene Reporter-News. If you enjoy local news, you can support local reporters with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.

If you are going to

What: Friends of the Abilene Public Library Book Sale

When: Sale reserved for members from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday; open to the public from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, with Bag-O-Books sale from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday

Where: Abilene Convention Center, 1100 North Sixth St.

Cost: Free entry. During regular sales hours, paperbacks are $1, hardcover and softcover books are $2. On Sunday, book bags will cost $6.

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