Early Arrivals Line Up for Spring Book Sale

The Friends of the Library Spring Book Sale begins today and continues through Wednesday at the FOL Bookhouse on North Main Street. Some bargain hunters began lining up almost 20 hours before the doors were to open this morning.

Ross Bacon sits in the shade near the front entrance to the FOL Bookhouse. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Ross Bacon drove to Gainesville from Charleston, S.C., on Friday morning on a mission — to be the first in line at the Friends of the Library Spring Book Sale, which starts this morning.

So forgive him if he was a bit smug sitting in his lawn chair Friday afternoon directly in front of the locked glass door leading into the FOL Bookhouse at 430-B N. Main St. A few feet away, Michelle Mansfield of High Springs was a bit jealous.

The mother of six had arrived at the Bookhouse around noon with her 11-year-old daughter, Rose. There was no one in line at that point — some 21 hours before the doors were to open — but then Nature called.

“He wouldn’t have been No. 1 in line if we hadn’t gone to the bathroom!” Mansfield said. “He was sitting here when we got back from CVS.”

Bacon, 63, laughed it off. He figured the first spot was his reward for getting up early and driving nonstop for five hours in his Toyota van in hope of finding treasure in Florida.

“I’m not here for the books anyway,” he said. “I’m here for the records — rock records, blues records, you name it.”

So when a bagpiper leads the march into the Bookhouse today at 9 a.m., Bacon will head straight to the Music corner and start poring over tables filled with old vinyl record albums. He knows that he has to be fast.

“I’ll spend the first hour trying to get as much as I can,” he said. “The young kids will come in and swarm all over. They don’t know what they’re buying.”

Bacon, a record dealer for almost 40 years, is hoping to find that one golden needle in the haystack that will make his 600-mile round trip worth it.

“I found a classical record here once that I knew was worth a ton of money, and it was,” he said.

He paid one dollar for the album (he couldn’t recall the title) at the book sale and then turned around and sold it for $1,234.56.

Sometimes he’s not so lucky. Last fall he spent $250 on records at the sale but listed them for about $600 on his eBay and Amazon sites.

Michelle Mansfield, right, with daughter Rose outside the Bookhouse on Friday afternoon. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

With a $500 budget, Mansfield has a different goal than Bacon does. She will be heading for the Education area.

“I’m here for home-school books,” she said. “I’m looking for some math text books that are out of print.”

Mansfield has home-schooled all of her children, including Rose, who is in fifth grade.

While her mom was chatting, Rose was on her Kindle (a birthday gift) reading “Against all Hope,” a horse book by Amanda Wills. It’s no coincidence that Rose’s oldest sister, Anna, is a professional rodeo rider in Texas.

Meanwhile, inside the Bookhouse, Friends of the Library volunteer Ken Johnson was finishing up work in the Science-Fiction section of the book sale.

“We always have a great selection of sci-fi books,” he said. “It’s always fun talking to people that are shopping the tables.”

Johnson is expecting books to fly off the tables and shelves on opening day, but no fear. There are another 100 boxes of sci-fi books already priced and ready to be put on display. He expects all of those books to be out of their boxes by Monday morning.

The FOL Book Sale, held in the spring and fall, is the largest sale of its kind in Florida. More than 500,000 books, records, games, CDs, DVDs, audio, video, paintings, posters, prints, puzzles and magazines have been donated for the sale. Categories include classical and modern fiction, textbooks, large-print editions, cookbooks, children’s books, quilting books, puzzle books, games, magazines, comic books and manga.

The book sale is open today from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday through Wednesday from noon-6 p.m. All items are half-price on Tuesday and just 10 cents on Wednesday. Payment is with cash and checks only. Credit and debit cards are not accepted.

All proceeds support the Alachua County Library District and area literacy projects.

— Noel Leroux

A look inside the book sale.

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