From left, Booksale sign chairman Robbin Phillips, 66, displays his handywork with publicity chairperson Beth Toland, 65, at the 2019 event.

Story by Darl DeVault

Seniors still prefer books and make up many of the volunteers and customers at the huge two-day Friends of the Library Booksale 2020 February 22 and 23 at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. As thousands of book lovers gather in the Oklahoma Expo Hall the sale proves in the world of digital access, the Age of the Book is still with us.
Subtitled “Booksale—40 Years Strong”, the annual sale provides a diverse selection of books, CDs, DVDs, magazines and more for every demographic of customers.
“It is amazing the wide range of subjects—including fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks, biographies, medical, westerns, romance, children’s, encyclopedias, reference and foreign language, plus a large selection of music, DVDs and audio books,” said Don Dory, 73, Booksale Coordinator. “Thousands of shoppers have been coming for years for our wide selection and low prices. In the General Area, hardback books are one dollar each and paperbacks and magazines are 50 cents each. Collectors go for the Items in the Better Books Room which vary in price, mostly under $5.”
The nonprofit Friends of the Library has used this book sale to raise money to support the Metropolitan Library System. In it’s now 40-year run, the Friends have given more than $4.8 million in grants to the system. All of this is due to the tireless efforts of hundreds of volunteers each year.
Almost five million dollars in 40 years is a big number and so is the 800,000 books available this year. All this means the sale becomes the largest nonprofit bookstore in Oklahoma for three days.
“Customers run the gamut of need—many trying to select best sellers, classics, collectibles and research books needed for school,” Dory said. “Thousands will be seeking to complete personal libraries in certain subjects, while parents will be striving to enhance their children’s reading exposure.”
Friends of the Metropolitan System members can shop a Presale from 1 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21. Held the day before the sale goes public, members are invited to first access. Annual memberships are available for $15 in the lobby starting at noon. Children 12 and under accompanied by an adult are free.
After 40 years, the sale is well established on the literary sale calendar for customers coming from all over Oklahoma, surrounding states and the whole region. Selective shoppers are advised to join the nonprofit to ensure the best possible purchasing opportunity.
Book lovers line up all three days awaiting the door’s opening. A quick survey of the parking lot shows that many of those customers are from out of state, coming to Oklahoma each year for the huge selection. The multi-day event attracts more than 10,000 book lovers.
In some ways the diverse selection offered represents a snapshot of a high-quality American publishing museum with the bonus that everything is available for purchase.
“Donated all year from various sources, the books are both common and select, while the other offerings are extremely varied, even including music,” said Beth Toland, 65, publicity chairperson. “This diversity means the sale is in one sense our states largest literary event.”
Admission is free 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 22 and 23.
The shopping is so robust that a dozen checkout points are offered by volunteers in each of the two sections. And yet, so many customers arrive early a line forms for the first few hours each day. The book shopping is intense, almost competitive, as this is a once a year opportunity.
Customers, depending on their need for new reading material, come with a wide variety of book hauling capability, as there are no shopping carts provided. Shoppers will see every form of wheeled cart pressed into service by other shoppers as they move among the tables laden with thousands of books. Large boxes are everywhere as some shoppers limit themselves to just those books they can carry.
The volunteers display 40 years of expertise in staging the sale by sorting the books into sections. Those sections are a wide cross section of interest, from tables of books by Oklahoma authors to books about Oklahoma.
Some years special sections offer brand new books donated when book stores and Oklahoma publishing houses use their donations as a way to balance their inventory.
Many business and industry concerns are well represented when entities going out of business donate their libraries. Retiring attorneys provide shoppers the chance to buy law books at a steep discount.
Volunteer shifts are still open, as the group is still looking for volunteers! To volunteer or for more information about Booksale, visit www.mlsfriends.org. For additional questions contact the Friends at 405 606-3763 or friends@metrolibrary.org.

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