A small group of volunteers did the remarkable Thursday, filling the Snider Agricultural Arena with roughly a quarter of a million books in just a few hours.
This weekend, nearly 10,000 people from the region and beyond are expected to help empty the arena again.
The annual American Association of University Women used book sale is set to kick off Saturday morning. The event drew 9,000 people last year over four days, according to organizers.
“Walking in is magical,” said Charlene Harrison, co-president of the local AAUW chapter. “This is a huge indoor space, and every surface is covered with books. It’s a ‘wow’ activity.”
Organizers said the event is one of the largest book sales on the East Coast, attracting dealers and private sellers from as far away as Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New York and Ohio.
But the bulk of the books are donated locally, collected and sorted throughout the year by a team of volunteers, which is an undertaking in its own right.
“Folks work quietly throughout the year,” Harrison said. “They were some wonderful, dedicated longtime volunteers. Some are retired librarians, some are teachers, some are people who just love books.”
The AAUW strives to advance equality for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research, according to its website. And the sale helps those goals both nationally and locally, according to Harrison.
The local chapter provides scholarships each year to three adult women in Centre County who are returning to finish a degree after their schooling was interrupted.
Sale proceeds are also used to support State College branch grant programs, local education and library projects, according to the group.
Harrison said the group is also committed to exposing young girls to science and math programs, and has begun offering scholarships for that as well.
The biggest chunk of the money raised by the sale stays in the local community, she said.
The four-day sale starts at 9 a.m. Saturday and continues through Tuesday. Long lines have traditionally marked the opening day, as hundreds gather to get the first pick of the books for sale.
Then, after a brief break, organizers and volunteers will start preparing for next year’s sale.
“The whole process begins again June 20, which is when we start accepting donations again,” Harrison said.
At the sale, books are sorted into more than 30 categories and are displayed on more than 250 tables. Cookbooks, children’s and collectors’ books are perennial best-sellers, according to the organization.
“It’s huge,” Harrison said.