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Saskatoon Symphony Book & Music Sale - Operation FAQs

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How should volunteers pack boxes of books?

If books are damaged while in storage, their value decreases and less revenue will be generated for the sale. So it's important to pack books properly in their boxes. And it's just as easy to pack them properly as to pack them in a way that invites damage.

Books are packed and repacked during sorting, pricing, sale set up, sale take down and culling, so there are plenty of opportunities to damage our stock if we're not careful!

Please follow these tips for packing books properly in their boxes:

  • First, construct the box by folding the bottom and taping it along the center seam with two or three layers of packing tape. Do NOT interleave the flaps - the bottom of the box must be flat for easy handling.
  • An easy and efficient way to pack books is to sort them by size first. Simply sort them into stacks of small / medium / large sizes until you have a box full ready to pack. Randomly throwing books into a box means that some books will not be supported properly and that fewer books will be stored in each box.
  • Place the largest books flat at the bottom of the box, working from one corner out, and working up to smaller books on top.
  • Wherever possible, pack books flat on their front or back cover.
  • Do not pack books with their spine or fore-edge (the part opposite the spine) down, or their top or bottom edge down. These positions will damage the binding, especially when the books have to support the weight of boxes stacked on top.
  • Do not pack books at odd angles. Pack as many books as possible flat, and ensure any filler is flat or vertically oriented. (Unfortunately, to maximize the use of storage space, some filler books will have to be packed vertically. See the next tip to minimize any damage.)
  • Ensure the initial flat stack of books is higher than the filler around it, such that the main stack will take any weight from above.
  • The standard boxes used in the work room are sized such that each box can be lifted by a single person (of average strength with a healthy back). Do not use any other boxes. Having a single standard size of box is important for stable stacking of boxes in the work room.
  • For books that must be recycled (throw), use smaller nonstandard boxes. Do not use the standard storage boxes for throw, unless it is damaged (repair it with tape) or wearing out noticeably.
  • Do not tape the top of the box shut. Just interleave the top flaps. If you are unable to interleave the top flaps, use a small length of tape on the top seam, just enough to keep it closed during transport.

How should volunteers lift boxes?

As well as not wanting to damage our stock, we also don't want to damage our volunteers! So it's vital that proper lifting techniques are used in order to keep our volunteers' backs healthy.

Please follow these tips for lifting boxes and large stacks of books:

  • Technique:
    • Prepare: Plan your route ahead of time, and ensure it is cleared of all obstacles or tripping hazards. Make sure there's enough room to lift safely and to deposit the box at its destination. Check for slippery or uneven surfaces along your route.
    • Position: Squarely face the box with your feet about shoulder width apart, with one foot slightly ahead of the other. Grip under the bottom corners of the box on each end.
    • Grasp: Squat down, bending at the hips and knees only. Don't bend your back to lift. Try to avoid bending your knees more than 90 degrees. Keep your heels off the floor when squatting down. Put one knee on the floor if necessary.
    • Lift: Look straight ahead and keep your back straight, your chest out and your shoulders back. Keep the box as close to your body as possible. Slowly lift the box by straightening your hips and knees. Keep your back straight and don't twist. Move smoothly and slowly.
    • Carry: Hold the box against your body at a comfortable height, with the bottom high enough to not impede walking. Use your feet to change direction, taking small steps. Keep your shoulders in line with your hips and your body centered over your feet at all times.
    • Deposit: Reverse the lifting technique. Squat down slowly, bending at the hips and knees only. Keep the box as close to your body as possible.
  • Principles:
    • Never lift a box above your shoulders or head.
    • Never twist your back when lifting or carrying a load (i.e., always keep your shoulders and hips aligned - pivot, don't twist).
    • Never bend your back while lifting or holding a load.
    • Never hold a load away from your body. Hug the load!
    • Always get help if a box is too heavy to move safely on your own.
    • Use a cart, dolly, or hand truck to move multiple boxes, or to move any box or boxes a long distance.
    • Make sure that partially filled boxes are at the top of stacks, not near the bottom where they may collapse and topple the pile.
    • Do not stack boxes more than 6 boxes high. Any higher, and the piles may become unstable, and lifting boxes too high risks injury.
    • Pace yourself and take breaks. And get help!
  • For illustrations of proper lifting techiques, see:

What are potential specialty and silent auction items?

Volunteers should always be on the lookout for potentially valuable items when sorting and pricing. These books should be placed in the Specialty boxes for later evaluation.

Look for:

  • Books autographed by the author.
  • Older illustrated books with prints, plates, engravings, or other collectible content.
  • Newer illustrated books that look unusual. These may also be appropriate for the Coffee Table section.
  • Books by famous people and/or about well-known movies.
  • Books with leather or fine bindings.
  • Popular collections, such as the Oprah Book Club.
  • Tiny or oversize books.
  • Old readers and spellers.

How should volunteers shelve their sections for the sale?

The purpose of our sale is to make as much money as possible for the Symphony. Therefore, the primary goal for every volunteer should be to sell as many items as possible. To maximize sales, the maximum number of items must be out on the sale floor at all times during the sale. Ideally, all stock should make it out to the sale space by the end of the sale. Some volunteers tend to be quite possessive of their sections. However, your priority should be to get the books out to the sale space as soon as there's room. The easiest and most efficient way of meeting this goal is to work as a team.

This team effort requires every volunteer to provide their unqualified support and full cooperation. Sections should be neat so that items can be found easily, but they do not have to be pretty. We are not a store. A volunteer's section is not their own kiosk or boutique. Our goal is to get as many items as possible in front of our customers in 10 days. All other considerations are secondary. All volunteers should be working towards this goal over all other considerations.

With that in mind, please follow these guidelines when unpacking books into shelves or onto tables before and during the sale:

  • Restock your section daily, especially after traditionally busy days. If you cannot do this, then ask your backup or another volunteer to do it for you. If you can't do either, then other volunteers will do it as a matter of course. The downside is that they might not arrange the books to your satisfaction, but the upside is that your items will generate income for the sale. For those volunteers who tend to be naturally protective of their sections, please remember that your fellow volunteers are only trying to achieve the primary goal of the sale.
  • Do NOT hold back stock on the first day or week of the sale. All shelves in your section should be full at all times. If you don't do this, you can rest assured someone else will. It's the team approach. Don't worry about making your shelves look pretty. The goal is to put as much as possible out in front of the customers. They can't buy items that are still sitting in boxes in our work room.
  • To facilitate restocking of your sections by all volunteers, do not over-categorize or over-alphabetize your boxes of stock or your sale shelves. Books should NOT be categorized by each letter of the alphabet, or even several ranges of letters. At most, they should divide the alphabet into two halves, usually A to L, and M to Z. Any further breakdown of categories, and you can expect volunteers to shelve books in the wrong place, or waste time constantly shifting books to accommodate new stock. Ensure your boxes of stock are clearly labeled with the categories so that restockers can easily shelve them in the right places.
  • Do not leave boxes under shelves or at the ends of aisles, unless they contain sets, magazines, brochures, or are neatly presenting a single spine-up layer of books under tables. In these cases, the top flaps of the boxes are not closed, but are either neatly folded inside or taped down on all four sides. When customers root through unorganized boxes, it not only creates an unsightly mess, it also increases the risk that books will be damaged. It is a potentially unsafe practice, as the boxes often end up blocking aisles as customers pull them out, and the books are often flung or topple into traffic areas, becoming a tripping hazard. We even found a box cutter in one of these boxes once! Please unpack and shelve all books.
  • Never, EVER, leave boxes in the aisles! All boxes taken out to the sale space for shelving should be emptied immediately.
  • Use the floor as a bottom shelf and fill it with stock. If you're concerned the books will get dirty, then put less valuable books there. Hardcovers are a good choice for the bottom shelf because their page edges are not in contact with the floor. Don't worry that some people may not be able to easily browse these books. Some people cannot reach the bottom shelf or two and some people cannot reach the top shelf or two, but that doesn't mean we should leave all those shelves empty and only stock the middle two shelves, for instance.
  • After all your stock is out and the shelves start clearing, shift books from the bottom shelves to the middle shelves.
  • After all your stock is out and some shelves become partially empty, use our metal bookends to ensure the books remain upright, neat, and undamaged. Laying 2 or 3 thick books on their backs can also make a quick and effective bookend.
  • Don't display books by standing them up on shelves with their face out. While this may look nice for a brief time (i.e., before the first customer touches them), it takes up space that could be filled with stock. It also increases the risk of damaging these books as they can fall over and off the shelf. Hopefully, not onto a customer! Later in the sale, when all of your stock is out and there is empty space on the shelves, this display method might be acceptable for middle shelves. A safer method would be to simply lay the books down on their back for display.
  • All books on shelves should be displayed vertically with their spines out, preferably right side up (even if the title is printed in the wrong orientation). Do not stack books horizontally on shelves. Books at the bottom of these piles cannot be easily accessed by customers, resulting in a mess as well as books being damaged by colliding into each other or falling off the shelves. If for some reason you have a very short shelf height, then don't stack more than 2 or 3 books horizontally in it.
  • For table displays, the most expensive items should be on the top of the table at all times. More accessible books sell faster and in greater quantity, so appropriate placement of expensive books makes more money for the sale. Less expensive items should be placed under the tables until there is room for them to be shifted to the tops of tables.
  • To achieve the primary goal of the sale, all available sale space must be kept filled with stock at all times, until all of the stock has been put out. Since some sections sell faster than others, the location of some sections will have to be moved during the sale. For those volunteers who tend to be naturally protective of their sections, please remember that these measures help us all achieve our primary goal. If the sections are not shifted, then many shelves will remain empty that could otherwise be generating income for the sale.

What are the duties of volunteers in the sale space?

During the sale, there are three categories of duties for volunteers: floor walker, security, and cashier.

Floor walker duties are:

  • Neaten the shelves. Return books to their upright position in the shelves so that customers can easily browse without books falling and getting damaged (or hitting customers!). Return books that are laying on top of shelved books to their proper position. Try to keep labelled subjects together.
  • Books will end up travelling between sections as customers weed out their potential purchases, or they return the books to the wrong location, or they leave their rejects at the end of an aisle. If you see books in the wrong location or on the floor, move them to their proper homes. If you're unsure what subject they fall under then ask another volunteer, or as a last resort place them on the specialty table.
  • Fill empty shelves by bringing stock up from the bottom shelf, or down from a very high shelf.
  • Place bookends (or use 2 or 3 books laid on their back) to prvent books from sliding on partially empty shelves.
  • Wear your name tag so that customers know you're a volunteer.
  • Politely answer all questions from customers as best you can. If you can't answer the question, try to find someone who can.
  • Use any downtime to familiarize yourself with the location of all subjects on the sale floor. This will be the most common question you will get from customers.
  • Another answer to a common question: Most book prices are marked on the upper right corner of the first white (or near-white) page. Sometimes that will be a few pages in. Sometimes a sticker will be used on the upper right corner of the cover or first page. This is usually avoided when possible to minimize the risk of damaging the book when the sticker is removed.
  • Carry a box around and offer it to customers to help them carry their treasures. First help people who are lugging around a stack of books.
  • If you or a customer finds an unpriced book, look for the first lightly coloured page to see if the price is actually there. If there is no price, find an experienced volunteer to price it. Otherwise, take your best guess and mark the price in pencil. No book should be less than $1, and newer books should be much higher.
  • Most customers are honest, but there have been a few bad apples, unfortunately. Be alert and report any suspicious activity. If a customer is acting oddly, observe from a discrete distance. Some of the unfortunate behaviour we have encountered:
    • A customer who sat at the end of an aisle, erasing and lowering prices. He used a shopping cart to partially hide his activities, but was eventually reported by other customers.
    • A customer who purchased a box of books and went back into the sale space with it on a cart. He filled up another box of books and walked out with the cart, briefly flashing his previous bill of sale to "prove" they were all his. Never let a customer back into the sale with purchased books, even if the top is taped shut. They should haul their purchases away and then return to the sale.
    • People who reach over the curtains and outright swipe books.
  • Clean up when possible. If you see debris on the floor or shelves, throw it away.
  • Don't allow food or drink in the sale space.
  • This is a touchy area: We should discourage shopping carts and large strollers from being used in the sale space. However, this is only a real problem during busy days. If someone is blocking an aisle for a long period and not letting other customers browse, then politely ask them to move or leave their shopping cart outside the sale space.
  • NEVER, EVER, ask a person using a walker or wheelchair to get out of the way, unless they are obstructing an aisle for an unreasonably long period (like settling down to read, for instance). ALL customers should be made to feel welcome, unless they are behaving in an unreasonable manner.
  • NEVER, EVER, let a child or anyone else climb up shelving, tables, curtains, or cross-bracing. Do NOT let children sit under tables.