Volunteers set out the colored balloons denoting the different types of books available on the tables at the 2020 Booksale at the Oklahoma Expo Hall at the State Fairgrounds.

Story and OU story scans by Darl DeVault, Contributing Editor

Seniors who prefer books in the world of digital access will descend on the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds for its huge annual free two-day Friends of the Metro Library Booksale 2022 on February 26 and 27. As thousands of book lovers gather in the Oklahoma Expo Hall, 3213 Wichita Walk, the sale provides hundreds of big print books printed with larger point size fonts to make it easier to read if you have weak eyesight and audiobooks.
“We are grateful for the way our Friends Booksale continues to be a fixture in the community for acquiring great, accessible books, supporting libraries and sharing a love of literacy,” said Tatianna Canon, vice president of communications and membership for the Friends. “The Friends Booksale is truly a local institution, and we are thankful for the support we receive to make it successful each year. The Booksale is one of the many ways the Friends organization works diligently to support local libraries and help them thrive.”
The most significant difference this year is customers must be a member of the nonprofit Friends of the Metro Library before the sale to come to the Friday ‘member’s only’ Pre-sale. Memberships and tickets will not be sold at the door this year to cut down on volunteer exposure to the crowd.
Due to the changing public health concerns surrounding COVID-19, the Friends will require all volunteers and guests over age 2 to wear a mask while assisting with and attending the book sale. Capacity requirements will be implemented as well, to keep patrons safe.
Safety updates will be communicated clearly in advance of the sale on Facebook, Twitter, and membership emails leading up to the event. Additionally, with the unexpected nature of the pandemic, the latest announcements and event information can be found at www.supportmls.org/fol/booksale.
The free admission annual sale opens to the public Saturday, Feb 26, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., 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 “Dive into a Good Book with Us.” The books feature a wide range of subjects—including fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks, biographies, medical, westerns, romance, children’s, encyclopedias, reference and foreign language books.
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 sale raises money to support the Metropolitan Library System (https://supportmls.org/fol/). In its 41-year run, the Friends have given more than $4.9 million in grants to the system.
All of this is due to the tireless efforts of hundreds of volunteers each year. With 800,000 books available, the sale becomes the largest bookstore in Oklahoma for three days ending Sunday, February 27 – 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Customers shop for many reasons. Some are trying 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.
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.
Those who become members for $15 ahead of time can shop a Presale from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 25. Held the day before the sale goes public, members are invited to first access. Children 11 and under accompanied by an adult are free.
After 41 years, the sale is well established on the literary sale calendar for customers from all over Oklahoma, surrounding states and region. Book lovers line up all three days awaiting the 9 a.m. opening.
The multi-day event attracts more than 10,000 book lovers. Each year, a quick parking lot survey shows many of those 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 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 of the two sections. 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.
Shoppers will see every form of wheeled cart pressed into service by other shoppers as they move among the sections of tables laden with thousands of books. Those sections are a broad cross-section of interest, from tables of books by Oklahoma authors to books about Oklahoma.
Some year’s 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 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.
Volunteer shifts are still open, as the group is still looking for volunteers! To volunteer for Booksale, visit Supportmls.org/Volunteer. Please select an opportunity and complete the online volunteer profile before volunteering, even if volunteering with a group. For additional questions, contact the Friends at 405 606-3763 or
[email protected].