Friends of the Library fall book sale returns with some safety measures

The annual Friends of the Alamance County Libraries Used Book Sale hasn’t looked exactly like itself in a while. That’s not too surprising in a global pandemic caused by COVID-19. The twice a year sales were closed by the coronavirus in the spring and fall of 2020 with only an outdoor sale of used CDs. The spring sale in 2021 was held with tight restrictions with entry into the basement of May Memorial Library in downtown Burlington by appointment only. Other measures were also in place to keep book buyers healthy.

The upcoming fall sale from Sept. 9 to 19 will also be a bit different. The online appointment only system has been removed but the number of customers able to get inside at one time will be limited. Entry is on a first-come, first-served basis and masks will be required for all customers and volunteers. At some times visitors can expect lines at the entrance until a customer leaves the sale. Physical distancing is also in place.

All of this is contingent upon the evolving COVID-19 conditions in the county. Case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths began to grow in late July and into August largely blamed on the rapidly spreading Delta variant and the relatively low numbers of vaccinated people in Alamance County. Kathy Oakley, co-chair of the Friends of the Alamance County Libraries Book Sale this year advises customers to check the organization’s website for any updates involving the book sale.

Here’s a schedule for the fall sale. Note the first two days are for members of the Friends of the Library but people can join at the door for $10. Note also that the last two days will be the popular Bag Sale days, which shoppers can take as many books as they can haul away in a FOL bag for $15. May Memorial Library is at 342 S. Spring St. in downtown Burlington. Use the Davis Street entrance. The sale also features CDs and DVDs, which are also popular. The schedule is below.

Otherwise, most aspects about the sale remain the same. People in the Alamance County community have donated thousands of books, fiction and non-fiction across all genres during the pandemic. The downstairs area of May Memorial, where the book sale is held, is teeming with books of all kinds. Volunteers sort the books by category and pack the shelves with sections on history, biography, self-help, food, entertainment, sports, travel and classics. The fiction room books are sorted by author. There is a separate area for children’s books.

It’s sort of a dream scenario for any serious reader.

The book sales are historically packed with people and successful, collecting to date $1.1 million for the Friends of the Alamance County Public Libraries. The funds go toward programs such as Alamance Reads or the Summer Reading Program. The most recent major expense aided by the book sales is the new mobile library, which will be ready to roll to areas of the county not served by a nearby library. It makes books and other items more accessible and also takes programs for children on the road. It’s a new version of the bookmobiles many remember from their childhood.

The mobile library has had a couple of public appearances but is still being outfitted for full use. This should be a highly visible presence for the Alamance County Public Libraries, a godsend to areas outside of cities and a tribute to the late Susan Gant who was a leader in bringing a mobile library to the community. She died in August 2020 before seeing the dream fully realized.

Books for the sale are collected throughout the year. Drive-up / drop-off events were held at May Memorial, Graham and Mebane to help fill the gap created by the pandemic altering hours at all libraries, but particularly May Memorial where books are regularly deposited for the sale throughout the year. Typically the spring and fall sales raise anywhere from $23,000 to $35,000. The spring sale numbers were down to just over $19,000 due to the limited number of customers who could enter at one time.

But very few county residents were fully vaccinated in March and far more are now. While capacity will still be limited, eliminating the entry by appointment should raise the number of attending book lovers.

And remember to bring a mask.

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