A local friend once told me the library sale is an ideal place to observe North Dakotans being North Dakotan. It’s a place to see Dakotaness on display. Like a lot of things, I didn’t understand until I saw it first hand. Let me explain.
First of all, the fact that a Library Sale generates so much hype is one of the things that endears Minot to me. North Dakotans love books. I’ve lived a lot of places — but book love around here is at another level.
Whether North Dakotans love books more than the average American will never be scientifically proven. What could probably be proven is the above average zeal these fine people have for the Library Sale.
For me, a Sale goes one of two ways.
A) I see an announcement during my weekly trip to the library. Then I text my friends, post it to my Instagram, and probably get a few texts from friends asking if I know there’s a Sale coming up.
B) I may be lucky enough to stumble upon the Sale — or a pop up sale — when I’m at the library.
Then, I revert back to point A and make sure all my friends know it’s happening. Outsiders may say this buzz over a book sale is proof that there’s nothing going on here. I beg to differ. There’s plenty going on in Minot. The fact that so many of us get jazzed about the Sale is proof that we are living a different existence than those outside of Hot Dish Land. To others, it may sound weird — but to me, it’s one of the little things that make life here utterly delicious. You’ll never fully understand it until you’ve lived it.
Second, once inside the Sale you can really get a close up look at local manners, mannerisms, jargon and passivity.
If you arrive at the Sale early, you’re likely to share the space with the most eager thrifters. These folks will bring boxes to carry their books out. Boxes. You can tell some of these go-getters mean business. There could be venom behind every benign “'Scuse me” and “Ope, just gonna squeeze through,” as book hunters politely vie for the best second hand books on the shelves.
The Sale is a great place to hone your local manners. For instance, if you reach for the same book at the same time as someone else, it is customary to enter a circular discussion of who should take it. The exchange may go something like this:
Person 1: Ope, sorry. Go ahead.
Person 2. No, it’s fine. You take it.
Person 1: Oh, I’ve already got plenty of books. No worries, you take it.
Person 2: I’ve got plenty of books too. Really. No worries. It’s yours.
Person 1: Welp, okay — but really, if you change your mind just tell me.
As the day goes on the crowd dwindles, as do the number of sideways glances. A new type of shopper comes in. These are the more casual book thrifters. During this portion of the sale you are almost guaranteed to run into someone you know.
Once you do, acceptable conversation topics include: the wind, what books you’ve read lately, what books you’re looking for, and what treasures you’ve found at the Sale (past and present). Then it’s polite to keep your eyes out for books that may interest your acquaintance.
During these slower moments of the Sale, it’s also customary to justify your books — both choice of titles and number of titles in your arms — and support others in their choices. A good North Dakotan will always spur another on toward adding more books to their collection.
It’s also a perfect time to practice your Hot Dish jargon. Never tried using “uffda” or “oh, I s’pose” in conversation? Now is your chance.
The Library Sale is one of the most local things I do. It’s one of the things I say proves I’ve gone “full Minot.” If you don’t understand the hype or haven’t knowingly nodded your head while reading this — you might not be from around here.
If you want to understand the heart pounding passive excitement that is the Sale — you’re in luck. The Sale is happening until Friday evening and runs on freewill donation — so just give what you can.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go figure out how to justify the books I brought home from the Sale to my husband.
Do you have an observation that is uniquely Dakotan or Minot? I’d love to hear from you. Reach me on Instagram @amy_allender or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org