By 9 a.m. on Saturday, the line for the Alachua County Friends of the Library book sale snaked around the organization’s building and extended 2 blocks down the road.
Eager attendees toted everything from cardboard boxes to crates as the line lurched forward. Inside, some pushed shopping carts while perusing spines of books organized according to their genre, which ranged from comedy to cooking.
In prior years, people swarmed the FOL building, located at 430-B N Main St., in a frenzied free-for-all, clamoring to acquire books for prices as low as $0.25. But after the COVID-19 pandemic halted the biannual tradition since October 2019, its resurgence this year was only made possible with heightened health and safety restrictions.
Michelle Benoit, who serves as the membership chair for FOL, said people weren’t discouraged by the new rules.
“I was pleasantly surprised that all those people have missed buying books so much that they stood outside in line patiently waiting their turn to go in,” she said.
All customers were required to don a face mask inside, and each section of the sale had an occupancy limit. At least one volunteer stood outside of the main warehouse, collector’s corner and arts annex and maintained a careful count of how many people were inside, letting people in only after others exited.
Aviv Amdur has been attending the sale with her family for the past five years, and she said this year is more organized and regulated.
“The flow has been pretty good,” she said. “I think it works.”
The Gainesville High School senior visited the sale on Sunday afternoon with her mom and sister. She counts herself lucky when she finds books with handwritten inscriptions inside.
“It’s really cool to find a book that you like and then see that it was gifted to somebody by a loved one,” she said. “One book was given by an aunt to a child, it was really nice to see that someone else enjoyed this book, that it was given with love.”
Inscriptions, coffee stains and pen marks are all possible features of the books as they are collected throughout the year to be distributed during the sale. This year, the building is bursting with two years of donations.
“We had so many books coming out over our heads,” said Sue Morris, the publicity chair for FOL.
Besides the masks, occupancy levels and increased donation size, the sale experienced another significant change. Credit cards were accepted as a form of payment for the first time; before, only cash or checks could be used.
“We just had to modernize,” Morris said.
The sale began on Saturday at 9 a.m. and will end on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The sale starts at noon Monday through Wednesday, but the popular collector’s corner, where people can buy valuable books, magazines and pieces of art, will end on Tuesday.
The arts annex, which opened for the first time this year and houses pieces of art, games, puzzles, posters and frames, will stay open until Wednesday evening along with the main warehouse.
The next sale is set for April 23 to 27.
“I was really happy to see that the people had not forgotten us,” Benoit said.