Free as a ... book?

The old truism, "free as a bird," took on a new meaning Tuesday morning as small but fervent crowd of about 50 bibliophiles descended on the Westport Library for the last day of its summer book sale when everything offered was free! (Although donations were most gratefully accepted by library officials.)

At precisely 9 a.m. sharp, the orange fence around the book sale perimeter on Jesup Green was drawn back and the queue of freebie hunters and gatherers set forth in search of interesting inventory that remained after three previous sale days. It was all theirs for the taking. (Again, donations were most definitely appreciated, library staff let everyone know.)

"Free is always good," said Steve Solomon of Stamford, "but I give a donation. It's worth it."

"I love reading and I just love books in general," said Lauren Lamb of Weston, who came to add a select more books to her collection.

But not everyone arrived in the spirit of the event. A few people aggressively scooped up armfuls of books into garbage bags to haul away. Library officials surmised they planned to try to sell the books elsewhere.

"Last year on this day there was so much scooping and pushing of people," Mimi Greenlee, book sale chairwoman, told the crowd before the fence came down. "Please be respectful of everyone," she said, warning that those who got greedy would be asked to leave.

And the first man in did just that, despite several strong warnings from Greenlee, as did a few others.

But by and large, most of the crowd was more selective, even though a large array of books remained.

"I just like finding new books that I can add to my collection," said Alyssa Seide of Weston.

"I'm actually looking for hard-cover books for a display I'm building," said Vicki Hughes of Westport, whose project will be used in a downtown store in the near future.

All the proceeds from the annual sale support the library. "We're hoping to get a lot of donations for these free books," said Tina Gangi, a volunteer.

"It's nice to make somewhere between $80,000 and $100,000," Greenlee said. "That's usually what we do," although a final revenue count wouldn't be made until sometime after the final call at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

"I come usually every year," said Joe Masullo of New Canaan. "You have to come to the first day if you're looking for something special, (but) if you wait around you may be out of the picture."

Craig Chaplen made the drive down from Thomaston. "It's worth it," he said. "You can pretty much take anything. The price is right and it expands your horizons."