Armed with boxes, chairs, blankets and breakfast, bibliophiles mean business when it comes to the Friends of the Library book sale and lined entire city blocks waiting for the doors to open.

This year, with COVID-19 precautions, the first 300 to line up got tickets to enter at 9 a.m. on the dot. After that, one patron gained access for every customer who checked out.

To earn the No. 50 ticket, Lloyd Davis got to the sale location four hours early. He’s a longtimer who first came to the sale 40 years ago.

Lloyd Davis with his No. 50 ticket at the FOL Book Sale.

Lloyd Davis with his No. 50 ticket. 

“They just have a fantastic selection of books,” Davis said. “You never know what you’re going to find.”

He loves the diversity of different topics the sale offers and hopes to fill his two tote bags with books about natural history for himself, knitting for his daughter and fiction for his wife.

At past sales, Davis found two books from a five-volume set written by a local mammalogist and published by University of Chicago Press about South American mammals.

While chances are slim, he’d like to purchase the volume on Ecuador before visiting the county soon.

The line behind him stretched out of the parking lot and down the sidewalk. Customers stand, sit in folding chairs or the ground and chat.

Further down Main Street, the line passes a No. 15 bus stop, a consignment shop and a tattoo parlor before turning the corner to follow NW 6th Avenue.

And that’s where the last of the 300 tickets end, with Marshall Rawson. He and his wife, ticket holder 299, got to the sale a little over an hour before the store would open.

A Gainesville resident since birth, Rawson has come to the sale since his mom brought him as a kid. He typically hits the Collector’s Corner first and looks for items on Florida history.

“I’ve never been this far back before,” Rawson said, telling how he’s slept on the ground in the past to stake out his spot in line.

Behind Rawson, the line of expecting faces turns another corner―down NW First Street―for another half block.

Down First Street, Andrea comments on how encouraging it is to see so many people lined up for books, and not Gator tickets, in Gainesville.

Who knew there were so many literate people, she quipped.

This year, the Friends of the Library separated the sale into two―one side for the Collector’s Corner, music, DVDs, fiction and nonfiction books and another spot for the games, paintings, drawings, comic books, and books on art of all kinds.

The line for the art side is a fraction of the length, and the section only holds 90 to 100 tenets at a time.

Within the first hour, shoppers had already packed out boxes of books. In the art building, four boxes with “Kirk” on the side sat full along the wall.

To the side of the main section, a reserved spot hosts the bulk buyers, patrons with tens of boxes.

People browsing for books at the FOL Book Sale.

People browsing for books at the FOL Book Sale. 

Ryan Wulf manages a pile of boxes as his father risks papercuts while hunting through the bookshelves. His father runs Bookwise, a used book store in Boca Raton, and Wulf says they’ll be shopping all five days of the sale.

Usually, anyone who can squeeze into the building and through the aisle can shop, and a wave of 800 people would enter as the doors open.

Sue Morris, publicity chair for the Friends of the Library, says the people waiting in line have been holding up.

“People are in a good mood and people are so happy to be back, and we’re happy to have them back,” Morris said.

And the good news, she said, the sale will reopen for another four days.

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