People rushing into Friends of the Library book sale, circa 1974

The last time the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library held a huge used book sale, hundreds of people lined up early in the morning to get first crack at rare and unusual books.

That was back in 1999.

In the ensuing 12 years, the Friends have sold used books at their two bookstores, one located on the first floor of the main library and the other at 2433 Channing near Telegraph. But the two stores don’t move inventory quite like a big sale, so the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library have decided to resurrect their once-much-beloved book sale.

It will take place Saturday May 14 from 10 to 4 pm in the community room on the third floor of the Main Library.

“In the past year, more book donations than ever have poured in, and it was these surplus donations that convinced the Friends to re-institute an annual sale — not yet as big as the “old” sale and with three big changes: everything will sell for 50 cents, the sale will be held inside the Library, and more than books will be sold — videos, phonograph records, maps, pamphlets, DVDs, CDs, and so on,” the Friends announced in a press release. “There’ll even be a whole section for vampire books!”

Some of the books and magazines that will be sold include all the Harry Potter titles, more than 500 issues of National Geographic, some from the ‘50s and ‘60s and dozens of issues of Finest Hour, a journal devoted to Winston Churchill.  Other books include books from Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo series, The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, and others. (Note: these books may go quickly.)

Browsing at the book sale, circa 1974

The first big book sale was held in the mid 1960s and all books went for 5 cents. Still, the Friends managed to raise $1,091 for the library. By the mid-1970s, the sale had grown to a three-day event held in a vacant lot next door to the Main library.

“Many people waited in line for hours before the sale opened, and others stood atop the Hink’s garage, then to the west of the Library, and peered down at book titles through binoculars,” according to a press release sent out by the FBPL.

“Arguments over specific books were not unusual (“I saw that first!!” “No, you didn’t, dorkhead, that’s mine!”), and at times one or two Friends volunteers would be called upon to adjudicate bibliographic disputes.”

The outdoor sale was discontinued when the Main Library was renovated and Library Gardens was built next door. The Friends now raise $110,000 annually selling books at their two bookstores. After expenses are deducted, the funds go to library programming.

If the sale is successful, the Friends will hold it twice a year, according to Elizabeth Jordan, who is helping to handle the Friends’ publicity.

Dealers with their ISBN scanners on cell phones are welcome.

Books donated in just one week to the FBPL. Photo: Elizabeth Jordan
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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...