ALAMEDA -- They lug. They lift. Their hands get dirty. Sometimes their backs hurt. They work (for no pay) in a modestly sized room in back of Alameda's main library branch at Lincoln Avenue and Oak Street.

A team of eight to 10 volunteers show up several hours every week to sort thousands of contributed books, most of which are loaded up twice annually and transported to the library's book sale at Alameda Point.

Two of these stalwart volunteers, Gertrude Woods and Adair Jorgensen, have been on the job for more than 30 years. While they went about the box-packed room recently, categorizing books into groups of topics, they tossed playful verbal barbs at each other, demonstrating the friendships that often occur when people have long histories of working together. Another pair of volunteers, Pamela Woods and Lynda Graham, also join in the teasing and kvetching. It's like a little book club, only there is no time to read. All are members of Friends of the Alameda Free Library and all have the same objective: to raise money for youth and adult library programs, such as the summer programs for kids and the ongoing programs for literacy.

Woods and Jorgensen say they like their decades-long unpaid vocation, despite the lugging of heavy boxes (volunteers do get help with the book sale transport from local volunteers from the U.S. Coast Guard) because they love books and they love the outcome. Last October's sale raised about $18,000, making it worth the work of months of rummaging through about 1,000 boxes of roughly 30,000 books.

The future may bring a changing inventory of contributions, as e-readers become the standard and hard copy books become rarified. Even now, the wave of audio books (not that long ago called "books on tape" before tape became mostly obsolete), but the volunteers say there will always be people who will pass on classic collections of academic, artistic or otherwise specialty hard copy books.

The twice annual book sales May and October are held in the DeWitt O'Club at 641 West Red Line Ave. at Alameda Point. The next sale is set for Oct. 18-20 and the lion's share of the inventory is priced from 50 cents to $2 per book. Any unsold books of the 800 to 1,000 boxes of books at the sale are donated to charities.

For more information or to become a volunteer of Friends of the Alameda Free Library, go to http://www.friendsalamedafreelibrary.org/. The organization also has other volunteer opportunities for the library.