By Molly Atchison | Editor-in-Chief
Wacoans flooded into the Extraco Events Center this weekend during the 56th annual Friends of the Waco-McLennan County Library book sale. According to their website, the Waco Friends of the Library stacked over 110,000 books in the halls of the Extraco Events Center, all donated from the Waco community.
Paul Larson, professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Baylor, has volunteered with the book fair for the past 20 years.
“It started off in the basement of the central library in 1962,” Larson said. “It’s grown little by little. When it outgrew the basement in around 1968 or ‘69, they moved it to the convention center downtown, and it’s just been growing and growing and growing.”
Larson said the library moved the sale out to the Extraco center about 10 years ago, and it has continued to grow to about 115,000 books — give or take a few. Larson said the organization spends an entire year sifting through donations to make sure only the best-quality books are included in the sale.
“We have a whole troop of volunteers that sort the donations that come in from all over McLennan County, and they work at West Library, and they sort them by subject and theme,” Larson said. “We then pack them in special boxes and send them to our warehouse. During the year we collect approximately 1,800 boxes of books. We already have donations from next year.”
Larson explained that the volunteers are tasked with going through the books carefully and picking out books that may not be relevant or in good enough condition to sell. “A lot of old nonfiction goes to recycling just because it’s out of date material. We work with the City of Waco to recycle 40 to 50 tons of books a year.”
He said they have about two dozen sorters, and that if anyone is interested in signing up to help sort books, all they have to do is become a volunteer at the Waco Library and attend an orientation, which takes place on Tuesday mornings at the West Waco Library. Those interested can learn more on the Waco Friends of the Library website.
For those who attended this weekend, there was much to discover in the stacks of books. From textbooks to romance novels to children’s literature, the book fair had it all.
Claude Valahu is a teacher at the Waco Montessori School and was searching through the stacks for elementary books in foreign languages.
“I teach French [for] kindergarten through sixth grade,” Valahu said.
She said has been teaching for 23 years and has been teaching in Waco for 13. She comes to the book fair every year.
Rhyn, Reece and their mother Julie deGraffenried were all sifting through books as well, in search of several specific items.
“I came the first day, and I’m a history professor at Baylor. I always hit up the history table to see if there’s books to buy,” Julie deGraffenried said. “I want to be able to loan them to students and to have in class.”
Reece deGraffenried had never been to the book sale, but she said she was enjoying seeing the variety of books available to read. Rhyn, her youngest daughter, said she was looking for several books in particular. “Any books about animals or science,” she said. The deGraffenrieds said the prices couldn’t be beat and they liked how the sale benefitted the library.