Michael Douglas has been coming to the Friends of the Library Book Sale since he could walk.
The third-generation Gator said that the book sale held at 430 N. Main St. is a “tradition” in his family and has “never let him down.”
“The genre of books and materials I grab here has changed over the years,” Douglas said. “But I have always found something great.”
Since the first sale in 1954, the five-day biannual event has grown to over 500,000 books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, records, games, paintings and prints.
Most of the items are priced from 25 cents to $4, excluding collector’s items at a bargain rate. Items are 50% off on the fourth day of each spring and fall sale and are 10 cents on the fifth day.
This year’s fall sale started Saturday and will end at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The next sale is scheduled for April 22-26.
Mary Latham, 58, said that when she introduced her then 11-year-old nephew to the book sale, he told her it was “better than Christmas.”
“He still drives up from Lakeland every year to come to the sale,” she said.
Latham said that since discovering the sale during her years studying public relations at the University of Florida, it has enthralled her for decades.
“Every day of the sale is something new.”
Lilla Moye, 84, said that her time as a volunteer with the organization for over 25 years has been “fascinating.”
“You never know what people are going to give us, and the people of Gainesville are extremely generous,” she said.
As a retired UF Foundation administrative assistant, Moye said that she finds fulfillment in helping to fuel the next generations’ curiosity.
“I work three days a week for six months between the sales,” she said.
“It takes a lot of hours to get everything priced because we research each item extensively.”
Moye said that volunteers’ dedicated work for the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization raised over $175,000 from the sales last year, which support the Alachua County Library District.
“Nobody here is paid except the janitor,” Moye said. “We donate our time because the people of Gainesville donate these amazing materials.”
Chris Curry, 75, said that his success for 15 years as a reading teacher at Williston Middle High School was due to the sale’s “vast, affordable selection.”
“I would pack the cubbies in the back of my classroom completely full of about 6,000 books and audiobooks from the book sales for my students to take home,” Curry said.
“I had kids who told me, ‘You can’t make me read.’
“I would say, ‘OK. Let’s see. You live on a farm, and you own an ATV? Here’s an ATV magazine.’
“The next day in class, after reading at home, they would ask me desperately, ‘Can you get any more of those?’” he said.
Curry has volunteered to help organize the sale items every year after retiring and said the combination of books and audiobooks at the sales made an “amazing impact” on the development of his students.
“You’ve just got to spark them. And then they can’t stop.”
UF students Tyler Vasco and Anthony Stross said that the selection at the book sale was “overwhelming” for them as first-time attendees.
“I didn’t even know where to start,” Vasco said. “But somehow, we both found something that we like here.”
The pair conquered the roughly 90-section sale together, leaving with multiple paper bags of books.
“It’s awesome that there are five days to check it all out,” Stross said.
Erica Rowan, 34, brought her 33-year-old husband, Robert Rowan and their 9-year-old daughter Caroline Rowan to explore the sale on Sunday.
Erica Rowan said the sale was a great first-time experience for her family because of the “numerous low-priced options.”
“Caroline loves to read anything with animals,” she said. “There are so many options here that I was never aware of.
“We’ll definitely be coming back.”