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Giant sale caters to book lovers

Nov. 4, 2010

Matt Hellman | Lariat Photographer
Lubbock senior Meaghan McNeil shops for books at the Friends of the Library book sale held at the Heart of Texas Fairgrounds in 2009.

By Jenna DeWitt
Arts and Entertainment Editor

Thousands of booklovers will gather in Waco for one of the largest book sales in the Southwestern United States this weekend. The 48th annual Friends of Waco and McLennan County Libraries book sale will take place from today until Sunday at the Extraco Events Center, formerly known as the Heart O' Texas Fair Complex.

The sale is no small affair, according to Randy Fiedler, Friends of Waco and McLennan County Libraries president and Baylor marketing and communications specialist.

"If you've ever been to a small book sale with a couple of books stacked in a corner, you would be in for a surprise," Fiedler said. "We have just about every subject you can think of. It is just wall-to-wall books as far you can see."

The books, totaling between 110,000 and 120,000, were donated by community members throughout the year. The books vary in age appeal and genre.

"Literally, there is something for everyone here," said library director James Karney. "We have people of all ages and all backgrounds. This is probably the most integrated event in all of Waco."

Special events will be held throughout the weekend, including a puppet show at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday. The show will be presented by children's librarian and puppeteer Stacy Phillips.

Saturday is also Teacher Appreciation Day, offering educators, including those in higher education, a 20 percent discount with a school ID.

Today through Saturday, books are priced individually. On Sunday, books are sold by the bag for $10, except for books from the Collector's Corner. The corner is a special section of rare and antique books deemed to be of higher value.

One section of books to look for is the "dead table." A tradition at the sale, the table presents the work of authors who have died within the past year.

"There is usually special interest in an author right after their death," Fiedler said.

Other special interest tables in previous years have included the Harry Potter series and books by author Danielle Steele.

Karney said he advises shoppers to "come early and often" because of the mass quantity of books. "You will find things you didn't find the first day," he said.

Event organizers said they are expecting about 6,000 people, based on last year's turnout. They said the event reaches beyond the Waco community to book dealers and collectors from across the continent.

"We have people who just love books and dealers who do this for a living," said Kim Salome, public relations manager at McLennan County Libraries. "We have had people from all over the country. One year we had people from Canada, Mexico, Washington state, but also people who are from Dallas, Austin and Houston. We also have a lot of community support."

Salome said the first day has been busy in past years, as eager shoppers have waited at the door before opening time.

"Usually people are lined up at the door to come in," Salome said. "We start selling wristbands at 8 a.m. We've even had people spending the night at the door."

An event this size requires a large body of helpers, organizers said. More than 200 volunteers, including Baylor student organizations, helped pack the books into 2,700 boxes and unload the boxes at the events center. They'll also work at the event throughout the weekend.

"Nobody there is getting paid," Fiedler said. "Throughout the year Baylor fraternities and sororities will help us stack the books and a number of Baylor students volunteer."

The organization exists to supplement funds from the city and county that keep the libraries in operation. Funds donated by the Friends of the Libraries pay for children's programs such as puppet shows, skits and visits from authors in addition to helping new libraries open their doors. The organization also provided $5,000 for local libraries to purchase books they would not have been able to buy otherwise, Fiedler said.

"Our city does a great job of supporting the libraries, but a city cannot pay for everything that a library does," he said.

Salome said the event is growing, "even in a day when there is social media and iPhones."

"People are still coming and getting books," she said. "That's something you worry about when you put on an event like this. So far we are doing strong."

Admission to the event is free Friday through Sunday. Today's event is free only for members of the Friends of Waco and McLennan County Libraries. Non-members can attend the event for $5 today. Parking is free.

The event opens today and Friday at 10 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m.

The sale will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday. The last day of the sale, Sunday, will last from noon to 6 p.m.