I volunteered to sort books for an upcoming Fernandina Beach Friends of the Library Book Sale. I bought books in the past at FOL book sales, but I avoided recent sales as I was attempting to thin out my currently overflowing collection of books. I was an avid reader as a child and grew up within a walking distance (one mile) of my town’s branch library. I also homeschooled my children and my local library was an indispensable resource. Both my son and daughter-in-law had been public library information specialists. I was curious to see what I would learn from the sale.
I met Fernandina Beach FOL Vice President of Fundraising and Book Sales Chair, Patricia Kirschling, outside the Fernandina Library. I followed her over to the Peck Center Gym where she took me to the former boys’ gym locker room. This was where most of the book donations were sorted and stored for the semiannual book sale. The book sale was next week, so this cramped space was packed with neatly stacked assortment of boxes (berry boxes, banana boxes, and apple boxes) full of books. Signs on the wall indicated the genres and these recycled boxes were labeled and placed under the appropriate category.
Patricia introduced me to Stephanie, who had the daunting task of sorting the donations and setting up these thousands of books for the sale. Stephanie introduced me to the other six women there; most of them retirees. I was put to work in the converted shower room (which I only realized was a shower when I was stacking boxes and saw the remaining shower handles!) sorting grocery bags and boxes of mystery, romance, general fiction, and trade books. If I was not sure if a book was a romance novel, I was told to read the last paragraph to see if it involved kissing! As a box was filled, it was stacked under its appropriate genre and letter. All the trade, fiction, mystery/adventure, science fiction, westerns, and biography were alphabetized. I discovered that there was an art in determining which genre a book belonged. In the former bathroom next to the shower, two women sorted children’s books, juvenile books, young adult books, puzzles, and games.
When we ran out of boxes, Stephanie took a red hand dolly and led me up a ramp and through the gym into a room where extra, labeled boxes were stored. Also stored here were the folding tables to be used for the sale, as well as records and large book sets. After that, we took the dolly upstairs through the Peck Center to a donation drop enclave near the front door. We brought those donations downstairs. Finally, we took a metal bin on wheels to the outdoor donation container and emptied it. By noon, the volunteers began to leave. I realized that tomorrow would be the last day of sorting before the sale, so I volunteered to come again. Seeing the amazing organization and dedication of the volunteers inspired me to continue to help through the set up, sale, and breaking down of the event.
When I arrived on the first day of the sale at 9 a.m., the tables were already being erected in the gym by four inmates in green and white-striped jumpsuits and orange clogs. They were being supervised by the Sheriff, a deputy, and Stephanie. Stephanie told the inmates to pick out a book each to take with them. As the volunteers arrived, table signs were put together and signs were taped to the wall to indicate areas of books. Coffee table books and flash sale books ($0.25 each/ 5 for $1) were placed on the bleachers. There was a corner of books on CDs, music CDs, DVDs, and LPs. Every bit of space that could be utilized was filled. Extra boxes of books were stored underneath the tables. A welcome/membership table was set up with maps detailing the 67 categories of books. A cashier’s table was set up with an extra area to count the books, as most people bought armloads of books at a time. Boxes and bags to offer to the customers were stored behind the tables. With the effort of about 26 volunteers, the book sale was set up by 2:30 p.m. The sale started at 5 p.m. I was tired so I did not stay, but I returned the next morning.
The following two days were busy. A wide variety of people from the community, including teachers and families came to shop. At times, there were long lines of customers waiting to have their books tallied. Working on the floor, volunteers kept the books in order, replenished the boxes, and assisted people with finding books. Late Saturday morning, books were further discounted. A brown paper shopping bag full of books were sold for $10. High school student volunteers came to help out. They placed stickers on all the remaining books. At the end of the sale, any book with two stickers (one from the last sale and one from this sale) would be donated to another charity. When they were done, many of the students bought books as well.
At 2 p.m. the sale was over. Stephanie handed out a sheet detailing the breakdown procedures and everyone got to work. The Sheriff returned with some inmates to help return the books and the tables to the storage rooms. Again, Stephanie offered them a book each. By 4:30 p.m. most of the cleanup was completed. The extra books were loaded and transported to various charities including Barnabas and Goodwill. I couldn’t resist myself. I did leave with a few books. After the start of the new year, Stephanie and the volunteers would begin accepting and sorting books for the spring book sale.
Patricia estimated that about $12,000 were raised. Earlier, I met with Patricia and asked her about Fernandina Friends of the Library and their fundraisers. Fernandina FOL was instrumental in preserving the Fernandina Library and its recent renovations. She said that while the City of Fernandina and Nassau County gave $600,000 each towards the library, Fernandina FOL promised and raised $1.2 million. We discussed how Fernandina FOL involved various community groups in events such as the “Food for Thought” fundraiser which brought together area restaurants and the local theater. She explained that all the money raised went to support the library.
Along with a spring book sale, the Fernandina FOL hosts a very popular annual “Storytelling Slam” fundraiser. The Fernandina FOL pays for specialized databases, network access, e-books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, and computer programs as well supporting free educational programs. According to John B. Horrigan in an online Pew report, “Libraries 2016,” 80% of Americans surveyed think that libraries should offer programs that teach digital skills. Patricia specifically mentioned free computer and digital learning classes available at the library. In the “State of America’s Libraries Report 2017,” the American Library Association has identified the need to promote “digital competency” which includes not only how to use digital media, but also how to evaluate it. In a letter to County Manager Ted Selby, Nassau County Public Library Director Dawn Bostwick reported that in 2016 Fernandina FOL gave $102,003 to the library which included a Learn-A-Test database for all the libraries.
After my experience, I heartily agree with Patricia that the library book sale is definitely “a labor of love.” I had not realized how many books were sold, recycled back into the community, and kept away from the landfills. I have found that the Fernandina FOL help a community larger than just Fernandina Beach. I met a Fernandina FOL volunteer who told me that she dresses as Pete from the children book “Pete the Cat” and accompanies a librarian to public and private schools in Nassau County. The librarian reads to the children while she pantomimes the story. According to Horrigan, this is a recent trend in libraries called the “outreach librarian.” In the Pew report “Library Users and Learning,” Lee Rainie states that 97% of adults who have used a library in the past year identify themselves as lifelong learners.
The Fernandina Beach Friends of the Library website states that their mission is “to promote literacy and lifelong learning.” My early exposure to the library definitely influenced my love of learning and I have passed that on to my children and grandchildren. The generosity of time and effort shown by the volunteers and the members of the Fernandina Friends of the Library have enabled the Fernandina Library to stay abreast of the current changes necessary for the Fernandina Library to continue to play an important role in the community. I intend to continue to volunteer with the Fernandina FOL to help encourage more people to become lifelong learners.
by Elinor Weisfeld
Bostwick, Dawn S. Letter to Ted Selby, County Manager. “2016 Library Accomplishments.” Nassau County FL,1 Dec.2016, nassaucountyfl.com/DocumentCenter/View/13404. Accessed 17 Nov. 2017.
Friends of the Library Fernandina Beach. fernandinafol.org/. Accessed 17 Nov. 2017.
Horrigan, John B. “Libraries 2016.” Pew Research Center, 9 Sep. 2016, pewinternet.org/author/jhorrigan/. Accessed 17 Nov. 2017.
Rainie, Lee. “Library Users and Learning.” Pew Research Center, 7 Apr. 2016, pewresearch.org/staff/lee-rainie. Accessed 17 Nov. 2017.
“State of America’s Libraries 2017.” America Library Association, American Library Association, 2 Apr. 2017, ala.org/news/state-americas-libraries-report-2017/issues-and-trends. Accessed 12 Nov. 2017.