Turning the page: Friends of the Library Old Book Sale prepares for new home

jkovac@macon.comMarch 13, 2012 

  • Old Book Sale

    What: Friends of the Library Old Book Sale

    When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

    Where: Wilson Convention Center, 200 Coliseum Drive, Macon.

The used-book sale that has outlived its previous venues -- Georgia’s first indoor mall and, more recently, a condemned gathering hall at the city’s most storied park -- opens this week in a decidedly top-shelf setting.

The annual Friends of the Library Old Book Sale, which has for ages been more of a Gutenbergian garage sale, has vacated the decrepit Long Building at Central City Park and set up shop in the Wilson Convention Center.

The atmosphere now packs a curious blend of trade show and flea market.

“The bathrooms are terrific,” a volunteer said Monday.

Buster Barry, another helper, said, “This is the first time we’ll be using a facility this grand. ... We’re going to have to create our own ambience.”

The Coliseum next door opened the same year the book sale began: 1968. The sale, which was usually in February, moved to March to tie into the Cherry Blossom Festival’s opening weekend.

Barry said the event, which runs Thursday through Sunday, likely won’t be dampened by roof leaks, which were sometimes a hazard at the Long Building. “We used to have to throw tarps over the books when it rained,” he said.

Friends of the Library President Andy Newton said one volunteer likened the new location to “driving a Mercedes instead of a Volkswagen.”

Monday morning, while organizers piled some of the 100,000-plus books on tables, longtime volunteer Aljean Thompson tended the “Old & Quaint” titles.

“It’s nice to come down and see all my old friends,” she said, arms wide, gesturing not to people but instead to her table of tomes, many of which predate television.

Thompson recalls the early years of the sale, back in 1970 or so, when they had it at Westgate Shopping Center. They hauled the books over in a station wagon, in two or three trips. They earned about $3,000 in those days. Now the sale sometimes makes 30 times that. Proceeds are donated to Bibb County libraries.

And so are the books, which typically go for a buck or two.

But not always.

Six months back, a donor dropped off a box of books at a Macon library.

Among the books was a first-edition copy of the 1952 Southern Gothic work “Wise Blood.”

Someone showed it to Larry Caldwell, a Friends of the Library volunteer, and opened it to the page where the book’s author had signed her name: “Flannery O’Connor.”

“Is this valuable?” Caldwell recalls being asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

The book, O’Connor’s first novel, could fetch upwards of $6,000 at the sale.

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.

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