Story by Darl Devault, Contributing Editor
Seniors seeking affordable books and audiobooks can shop at the largest used book sale west of the Mississippi—the annual free two-day 43rd Friends of the Metro Library Booksale 2023. Thousands of book lovers will line up early Saturday, February 25 and Sunday, February 26, well before the 9 a.m. opening in the Oklahoma Expo Hall at the Oklahoma City State Fairgrounds. The sale closes at 5:30 p.m. each day.
“This event is such a great opportunity for folks to build a personal library and support the public library,” said Heather Zeoli, Metro Library System director of development.
Providing a diverse selection of paperback and hardcover books, CDs, DVDs, magazines and more for every demographic of customers this year, the sale’s theme is “Books Bring Us Together.” The books and much more feature a wide range of subjects—including fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks, biographies, medical, westerns, romance, children’s, encyclopedias, reference and foreign language books. Thousands of big print books printed are offered with larger point-size fonts to make it easier to read if you have weak eyesight, along with thousands of audiobooks.
In the General Area, hardback books are two dollars, paperbacks are one dollar (children’s paperbacks are 50 cents), and magazines are 3 for a dollar. Price lists for items in the general section are available online at supportmls.org/fol/booksale. Collectors go for the Items in the Better Books Room, which vary in price, mostly under $5.
The sale raises money to support the Metropolitan Library System In its 42-year run, the Friends have given more than $5 million in grants to the system. (STORY CONTINUES BELOW)
All of this is the product of the tireless efforts of hundreds of volunteers each year. “The volunteer connection lasts through the whole year – we hope everyone will come and join us for new friends and new books,” Zeoli said. Volunteering can provide seniors with a sense of purpose and fulfillment, an opportunity to socialize and connect with others, and positively impact their mental and physical health. It is a great opportunity for seniors to stay active and engaged with the community and contribute to positively impacting their peers’ lives.
With 800,000 books available, the sale becomes the largest bookstore in Oklahoma. Selective shoppers are advised to volunteer or join the nonprofit to ensure the best possible purchasing opportunity. Volunteers helping this year will be treated to the best possible selection opportunity available by having access to the sale on Thursday for a special volunteers-only session. Volunteer shifts are still open, as the group needs your help, so please visit supportmls.org/volunteer.
All volunteers receive a free T-shirt, service hours, and the chance to purchase items before the members’ sale. Volunteers are also welcome to shop on Sunday night and take materials for free. “Love of books and reading inspired my volunteering with the Friends of the Library,” Valerie Hernandez said. “Making sure others have the opportunity to select from all these books is why I help at both the sort site and the sale.”
Customers shop for many reasons. Some try to select bestsellers, classics, collectibles and research books needed for school. Others seek to complete personal libraries in certain subjects, while parents strive to enhance their children’s reading exposure.
Those who become members for $15 ahead of time can shop a Presale from 1 – 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24. Held the day before the sale goes public, members are invited to first access. Children 11 and under accompanied by an adult are free. Those wishing to join the Friends may purchase memberships online until noon on February 23 by visiting supportmls.org/fol/membership. No memberships will be sold at the sale.
The sale is well established on the literary sale calendar for customers from all over Oklahoma, surrounding states and the region. The multi-day event attracts more than 10,000 book shoppers. Each year, a quick parking lot survey shows many customers are from out of state, coming to Oklahoma for the vast selection. In some ways, the diverse selection offered represents a snapshot of high-quality current American publishing with the bonus that everything is available for affordable purchase.
The Friends offer a year-round Amazon store to access their selection at Amazon.com. They also provide ‘Buy the Box’ sales where volunteers package and seal books by genre – buy a box of romance, mystery or children’s books – and enjoy the surprises inside.
The shopping is so robust at the sale volunteers offer a dozen checkout points in each section. And yet, so many customers arrive early a line forms for the first few hours each day.
The shopping is intense, almost competitive, as this is a once-a-year opportunity. Customers quickly buy the best music or audio CDs, gaming systems and video games, eReaders, DVDs and vinyl records. Organizers ask shoppers to refrain from bringing wheeled carts so everyone can quickly move among the sections of tables laden with thousands of books. Tables include a broad cross-section of interest, including books by Oklahoma authors—to books about Oklahoma.
Some year’s special sections offer brand new books donated when bookstores and Oklahoma publishing houses use their donations to balance their inventory.
Many business and industry concerns are well represented when entities going out of business donate their libraries. Retiring attorneys and doctors donate to provide shoppers the chance to buy current-within-four-years law textbooks or books of law statutes and medical textbooks or medical journals at a steep discount.
On Sunday night from 6 – 8, educators and nonprofits are invited to visit the sale and take home any leftover items for free. For more information and registration, please visit https://supportmls.org/npt/.
Again, volunteer shifts are still open, as the group is looking for help. To volunteer for the Booksale, visit https://supportmls.org/fol/volunteering/.