As much as I would like to boast I was there for the premiere of the Friends of the Library Old Book Sale – making me the answer to a trivia question, of sorts – I have no such bragging rights.
Macon’s largest literary yard sale celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this year. The first sale in April 1969 featured about 3,000 books scattered across tables at the old Westgate Mall.
By the time I moved to Macon nine years later, the old book sale was on its way to establishing itself as one of the city’s most popular annual events.
I have attended most of the sales in the 40 years I’ve called Macon home, and I have the bookcases to prove it.
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I always make sure the sale is on my calendar, which is why it’s odd to be putting it on there again so soon.
It’s coming back in another three weeks.
I guess this is where I’m supposed to claim the only thing better than the Old Book Sale is two Old Book Sales.
The dates are Oct. 18-20, which is smart planning. It begins four days after the end of the Georgia National Fair and, if you look on your football schedule, the Georgia Bulldogs have an open date that Saturday.
A word of advice, though. Don’t show up at Central City Park. You’ll find plenty of parking … and an empty building. The longstanding relationship with the park has come to an end after 23 years.
Next month’s sale will be held in the former Lipson’s Fabrics store, located in the same shopping center (Riverstreet Corners Center) as the FOL donation center and work room.
Longtime FOL volunteer Andy Newton said moving the event and having a second sale in the fall is something the board has discussed for several years.
Among the reasons was declining sales revenue. The February sale brought in about $64,000, but expenses were in the neighborhood of $20,000.
“The rent is just part of it," Newton said. “We have to have security and fire marshals. But the biggest expense is moving, about $8,000."
The FOL still must rely on Carroll’s Moving & Storage in Macon, where more than 250 of the event’s tables are kept. The moving company will help transport the books the short distance across the shopping center. (You can’t expect the FOL folks to load up the inventory on hand trucks. Many of the volunteers are in their 70s and 80s, and the oldest is 94.)
Newton also believes the month of October is a wise choice. “You don’t need heating or air conditioning," he said. And it is traditional is the driest month of the year.
In its 50-year history, the Friends of the Library has raised more than $2 million for area libraries. And that dedicated group of volunteers never could never have done it without the generosity of folks who not only make book donations but support the sale with their presence.
Given the recent Macon-Bibb budget crisis, when the libraries were at risk of having doors closed and services cut, the Old Book Sale has taken on even greater importance in helping to maintain the quality of life for citizens.
“I like to say a strong library system is one of the cornerstones of a strong community," Newton said.
For many of you out there, that’s preaching to the choir. See you at the sale.
Ed Grisamore teaches journalism at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears on Sundays in The Telegraph.