Tables were pushed together to form long rows, and more racks and boxes lined the walls to fit as many books as possible.
When fully stocked, there wasn’t an empty spot in the store.
Bookstore manager Mike Burns couldn’t even estimate how many books they’d received.
“We’ll just go with thousands,” he said. “It could easily be hundreds of thousands.”
On Monday the books had still not run out, and shortly after the sale’s 9 a.m. opening, dozens of people were already filing in to see what the Friends of the Library had to offer.
Friends of the Library is a non-profit organization that works with volunteers and community outreach to raise funds for MCPL.
Membership fees start at $25 for an individual or family, and donations of any amount are welcome. Donors are also given the opportunity to designate where their money will go, either to endowments or current initiatives.
While membership fees and donations play a key role in the group’s fundraising, the bookstore and its clearance sales are the major money makers, said John Baumert, vice president of the Friends of the Library and co-chair of the group’s bookstore committee.
The bookstore, a permanent fixture in the library, is run year-round by a group of about 10 volunteers, whose responsibilities include processing donations, stocking shelves and running the cash register.
Burns said they can usually anticipate 30 to 40 volunteers to help with the clearance sale, helping with everything from straightening the tables to more daunting tasks like cleaning donated books.
“Last week, we got a bunch of CDs that looked like they’d been dipped in dirt,” he said with a laugh. “But they were still good, so we cleaned them up.”
The library provides books to the sale, and Friends of the Library also accepts donations from the public.
The donations don’t stop when the sale begins. Baumert teasingly shooed away a shopper who came Monday morning bearing more books to contribute to the sale.
“We don’t need to put any more out,” he said jokingly. “We’re trying to get rid of stuff.”
Baumert said the sale also exemplifies the group’s dedication to Bloomington’s youth and getting more kids reading. He said children’s books are priced significantly lower, starting at around $0.50 each.
The group is so dedicated to encouraging kids to read, Baumert said, because they are the future and need to be well informed.
“We want the kids to read,” he said. “We want them to understand what’s going on so they can become smart voters and good citizens.”
The Friends of the Library also funds other programs, such as the library’s summer reading program, which incentivizes kids to read during the summer by awarding them prizes each week they finish a book.
Katherine Wallskog, who browsed through the sale Monday, said she likes that the library supplements youth programming, even though her kids are too old to benefit from it.
“Children need literacy, not just places to play,” Wallskog said.
Baumert said libraries are continually evolving with technology, but he doesn’t see people’s passion for reading dying away anytime soon.
“Obviously, there’s still an interest in books,” he said, motioning to the sale room. “Look at all the people in there.
“The need for reading and the need for knowledge is there. The need for entertainment is there. I think it’s important to keep these things going.”
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