It’s a well-known tradition among book lovers that began modestly more than three decades ago in a small shopping center in the Vieille Métairie.

From this location in 1987, in what is now the Old Metairie Village Mall, three more locations followed until the Friends of Jefferson Public Library found a long-term home for its big book sale. biannual at the Pontchartrain Center along Lake Kenner.

Lisa Conescu, a member of the Friends since 1984, sits on its board of directors and has served as president, vice-president and book sales president.

“The first sales were a lot of fun and much simpler than our sales today,” she said. “We only had surplus books from the library (for sale) and we had them delivered for sale in huge boxes. Some were unloaded on tables while others were left in boxes with customers actually climbing into the boxes.”






Shannon Conner carries a full load of books for purchase at the Friends of the Jefferson Public Library Fall Book Sale at the Pontchartrain Convention Center in Kenner in 2019. The Friends of the Jefferson Public Library is a nonprofit organization charity that provides additional funds for the Jefferson Parish Library.




The book sale returns to Center Pontchartrain from March 18 to 20.

Over time, the members of the Friends have become more demanding booksellers. “Many of us went to book sales or used bookstores to find out how other people priced their books. We got smarter and wiser and made more and more money as we learned researching and reviewing the books,” she said. “And we started identifying valuable books and assembling a collection of reference works on rare and collectible books.”

In 1998, the Friends opened a store inside the East Bank Regional Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie. Today, it’s open weekdays from 1 to 4 p.m. and sells used postcards, stationery, small gifts, records, and books.

Diane Schleifstein, president of the Friends since 2018, helps manage internet sales, the online store and weekly volunteers at the Friends store.

“Joan Demers (a member of Friends) started online sales in late 2007 after noticing book sales buyers were checking the value of books with their handheld devices,” Schleifstein said. “Based on criteria developed by Joan, a group of women list books for sale on Amazon, then package and ship the books.







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Conner Varnado, 12, left, and his brother Carson, 8, read books at a Friends of the Jefferson Public Library book sale at the Pontchartrain Convention Center in 2019.




“We have sold books through Amazon for the past two years when major book sales were canceled (due to the pandemic) and were able to donate $50,000 to the library in December from funds raised through book sales. ‘Amazon and Friends store.’

Judy Zawislak, a Friends volunteer since 1993, co-chaired the Great Book Sale for 20 years.

“The biggest impact of the pandemic on Friends was that we weren’t able to give the library as much money as we had in previous years,” Zawislak said. “On the other hand, the lockdown has allowed people to view their personal book collections and donate many books from their books to us once we reopen.”

Zawislak said the upcoming sale will feature several special items, including an 1842 Bible; 14 volumes of the Agatha Christie Mystery Collection; a 2008 Fair Grounds poster signed and numbered by artist Tuna Seither; a rare oversized 1987 Beatles poster; a DVD set of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”; and a signed and numbered 1955 Tennessee Williams Literary Festival lithograph by George Febres.

Peg Phelps, a member of Friends since 1996 and the group’s treasurer, said more than $2.5 million has been raised since its inception.

“I think our biggest sale was in 2006, after Hurricane Katrina,” Zawislak added. “So many people had lost collections of books and were eager to replace them when we held our sales. It was a huge influx of buyers and we brought in over $80,000.

Proceeds from sales are used to support the library system by purchasing needed items not covered by the library budget. Patricia Cox, a member since 1987, said the destination of donations “changes from year to year, and it’s usually what’s needed in addition to what’s in the library’s budget”.

“We purchased ‘smart tables’ for the children’s section of the branches.” said Cox. “We also replace furniture and shelving when renovating branch libraries. And we fund the library’s annual summer reading program.

Phelps said the band wasn’t sure what to expect from the upcoming book sale. Lots of people are calling and asking about the upcoming sale, “so we think there’s a lot of pent-up demand there.”

For more information on the sale or Friends, visit www.friendsofjeffersonlibrary.org or call (504) 455-2665.

Big book sale

WHAT: The semi-annual Friends of the Jefferson Parish Public Library sale, including thousands of books, DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, discs and puzzles.

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on March 18 and 19; 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. March 20

OR: Pontchartrain Center, 4545 Williams Blvd., Kenner.

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