Friends of Library book sale online this year

The Friends of the Library book sale is so popular that the nonprofit organization has to borrow a parking lot and pay for traffic control. 
During a pandemic though, that popularity has caused event organizers to think out of the box and into the bag.
According to FOL book sale Volunteer Coordinator Mark Olson who, along with his wife Stephanie, has been in charge of overseeing the receiving, sorting, pricing and sale of thousands of books since 2016, “We’re working primarily getting things that people might grab for 5 or 10 dollars a bag.”
“We’ve got children’s picture books, and board books you get about 15 or 20 per bag, with young adults, we’ve got young adult elementary and middle school readers about 15-20 per bag.
“We’re generally are trying to get 50 percent more of our price dollar value. In other words, in a 5 dollar bag we’re putting $7.50 worth of books.
Olsen said since customers are not getting to pick out title choices, they’re putting extra titles in case, “You get something you don’t like you can trade it with your neighbors.”
According to the FOL website, the Friends of the Library is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that supports the Alachua County Library District and literacy programs throughout Alachua County.
“FOL’s first organizational meeting was held on Sept 30, 1954, at the former JJ Finley school,” the website states. “The first book sale in October, 1954, raised $80.  A few years later FOL made its first donation to the library: $600 for purchasing and installing folding doors for the children’s area of the “new” 1956 library.  Among other projects supported by FOL are a scholarship fund for library employees, annual author events, children’s literacy festivals, and FOL’s Mini-grant program.
“In 1989, Friends of the Library and Gainesville’s Junior League purchased the current Bookhouse, providing FOL with its first permanent home for donations, sales, organizational records, and events.  With permanent housing, FOL was able to expand from annual to semiannual book sales.  These book sales now feature as many as 500,000 items and have become one of the biggest of its kind in the southeastern United States.”
The online sale started on Oct. 1st. By 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 2nd Olsen and his wife started calling people who ordered to schedule pickup times on Oct. 10th.
“We’ve sold a couple hundred bags already,” Olsen said. “Next week when the sale starts (online) on Thursday we’re going to add in CDs and DVDs since people have been asking. We’ll be doing 20 assortments of music for $5, they’re good values.”
The sooner the volunteers remove the first round of sales they can bring in more donations,” Olsen said.
The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the FOL from hosting its annual Spring sale and stopped the flow of donations.
To read more about the sale and to order bags of books click here.
Purchases are paid for online and the buyer will be contacted to schedule a pickup time.
“They come in and are directed to a parking space,” Olsen said about the pick up process. “They tell their name and we’ll come out with the bags that they’ve ordered.”
So far, the largest order has been for 10 bags from one buyer.
“A lot of people are buying multiple bags,” Olsen said. “Earlier this year we gave a number of boxes to an Eastside High student who put them out in community boxes.
“The community had stuff to read and we ended up with some space so we could take in more things that people want to drop off.”
To donate books, CDs and DVDs dropoff days are twice a week from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays.
“We leave them quarantined for a week before we sort them out,” Olsen said about donations.
Olsen said he’s hoping a vaccine comes out soon so the FOL can go back to an in-person event.
“We modeled this event on the restaurants’ take out temporarily until we go back to the old way,” Olsen said.
“Right now, it draws too big of a crowd that requires police and traffic control.”

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