Friends of the Library Book Sale runs Friday-Sunday at Oklahoma Expo Hall 

click to enlarge London, England - January 24, 2015: People browsing the books for sale at the Southbank Centre Book Market in London, England. Located beneath the Waterloo Bridge the market is open all year round. - BIGSTOCK
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  • London, England - January 24, 2015: People browsing the books for sale at the Southbank Centre Book Market in London, England. Located beneath the Waterloo Bridge the market is open all year round.

Like making doughnuts or delivering mail, preparations for Friends of the Metropolitan Library System’s annual book sale never truly end. Once volunteers transfer over 200 pallets of books for the sale, which opens 5:30 p.m. Friday for its special ticketed presale for members and continues Saturday-Sunday in Oklahoma Expo Hall at State Fair Park, they start collecting books for 2018.

“There’s two groups of volunteers,” said Mike Arnold, a longtime event volunteer. “There’s those of us here who work all year, and then we have 700 volunteers just to set up the book sale.”

For literate super-consumers who buy books in volume, the annual sale is one of the most important late-winter events. Thousands converge on the fairgrounds — hand trucks, boxes and shopping carts in tow — to pick through tons of remaindered or replaced books from libraries throughout the system, along with donated books from supporters. All told, about 800,000 books, CDs, vinyl albums and DVDs — usually priced at $1 or less — are up for grabs this year.

“You know, about anything and everything, we sell it,” said Joe McReynolds, warehouse chairman and sale co-chairman. “We get everything donated to us.”

Books that go up for sale undergo an arduous sorting process once they are either withdrawn from library shelves or are donated by citizens. The team examines each book for excessive wear. Water damaged, ripped spines and even heavily highlighted books are set aside for recycling.

Some are automatically rejected, such as Reader’s Digest condensed books. Arnold said that they, as well as old issues of National Geographic, simply do not sell and are instead usually sold to bulk resellers by the pound.

Then there is the curious case of the encyclopedia. Since the advent of online research, encyclopedias are increasingly difficult to sell. Arnold, who evaluates donated encyclopedias, said they will only sell sets that are less than 10 years old and complete.

“I have all these sets, and they’re incomplete, but I hold onto them and wait to see if they come in,” Arnold said.

Alternately, some sets are considered valuable enough that they will earn more if sold on Amazon than at the book sale. Arnold said he received one set of World Book 2016 encyclopedias that he was ready to price at $250 for the sale, but after checking their value through the online retailer, he put them up on Amazon for $600, with all proceeds going to the library.

The books that make the cut for the sale are then sorted into 33 fields of interest, with recent titles by big-name authors sectioned off as “collector’s choice.” Antique books are evaluated for age, quality and interest and priced separately. Once sorted, they are packed into boxes and stored at the Metropolitan Library System (MLS) warehouse at 300 NE 50th St. until the Sunday before the event.

“They run seven trucks on Sunday, bringing everything to the sale,” said Heidi Port, MLS volunteer services coordinator. “And they run them all day.”

For the next week, volunteers set up tables throughout the expo hall, trucking in and organizing items and preparing for the massive onslaught of literate Oklahomans ready to curl up with a good book, or maybe a hundred of them.

Guests are encouraged to arrive early for the “collector’s choice” books, which are often the first to go.

“Newer ones, popular ones, better condition,” said Carol McReynolds, who sorts the antique and collectors books. “Anything we think we can get more than a dollar for.” 

Print headline: Treasure trove, The Friends of the Library sale offers thousands of tomes for the literary-minded.

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