Story by Kaylyn Ling
For two select weeks out of the year, all of Gainesville’s bookworms come inching out of their nooks and crannies and convene in one place: the Friends of the Library Book Sale.
The biannual event is an immensely popular five-day warehouse sale of books, magazines, DVDs, artwork, records and more miscellaneous goods. The sale takes place less than a mile away from downtown in a large warehouse on Main Street. The event is overseen by the Friends of the Library organization, a nonprofit benefiting the Alachua County Library District.
“We come here every other year or so, and buy books for either our children or ourselves,” said Kenneth Mehrlich, a visitor from Orlando.
Mehrlich is one of many others who come from out of town for the book sale.
“On the weekend, we have people come in from all over the southeast,” said Ellen Smith, a Friends of the Library board member, during a WUFT podcast episode.
Mehrlich credited his sister-in-law’s family, who have lived in Gainesville for years, as the reason he found out about this special local event. Like Merlich, many customers hear about the book sale by word-of-mouth. Others hear about the event through its Facebook page, which circulates to thousands of people every year. This fall, the sale has attracted the online interest of around 5000 people.
Thanks to satisfied patrons inviting their friends and family, the event has grown over the years and many people now consider the Friends of the Library Book Sale a regular event to look forward to.
“I have a friend that told me about [the event] and we’ve been coming every year since,” Erika Cintron said. Cintron, a UF political science and international studies senior, said visiting the sale is “like tradition” for her and her friends.
“I come in here with an idea of stuff I want to read,” she said. “I [usually] go to the classic literature, fiction and YA sections — those are awesome.”
True to her word, Cintron stands in front of an impressive wall of classic literature as she speaks, but she also likes freely browsing other genres.
When visiting the book sale, browsing is the word of the day.
“I just wander around and read titles,” Merlich said when asked how he plans to spend his time at the sale. “I’ll spend around 45 minutes and see if anything works for me.”
The books span an impressive number of genres and each shelf promises a chance of finding something special. Shoppers can easily spend an hour circling between fantasy novels, glossy-paged coffee table books and vinyl records.
The diversity of goods made available can be attributed to the generosity of the community — every item in the sale was acquired through donations. Most of the goods come from community members, but there are also a number of books donated from the Alachua County Library system.
“We have over 60 categories of items,” Smith said.
Smith highlighted the Collector’s Corner as a special part of the sale. The Collector’s Corner, open for only the first four days of the event, is a unique section of the warehouse touting rare items. These rarities include signed books, first edition prints, local histories pertaining to Florida and UF, vintage memorabilia and more.
This fall, some of the Collector’s Corner highlights include a signed edition of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, autographed materials from Hollywood starlet Katharine Hepburn and rare vinyl recordings from The Beatles.
This season’s book sale began on Saturday, October 19, and will run through Wednesday. Most prices range from $0.25 to $4.00 per item, but additional markdowns will occur on the event’s last two days. Tuesday will offer items for half-price and Wednesday will be 10-cent day.
Once the warehouse closes for the season, the self-proclaimed “largest book sale of its kind in Florida” will not return until Spring 2020.