Some brought bags. Some brought baskets. Some brought plastic tubs carried on hand trucks. At least one brought a hamper.
And they were all filled with books.
This weekend marked the beginning of the 55th annual American Association of University Women book sale — a four-day event with more than 250,000 used books for sale at Penn State’s Snider Agriculture Arena, drawing book-lovers from across the county and beyond.
About 150 volunteers, including 25 high school students and boy scouts, began unloading 15 truckloads of books into the arena Thursday. The books are trucked in from the AAUW’s current location on West College Avenue.
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Setup begins at about 10 a.m., book sale Chairwoman Donna Trapp said Thursday, when AAUW members begin setting up tables, signs for the different categories of books and the sale’s famous egg boxes, which the AAUW have been using for several years.
Trucks start bringing books to the arena by 4 p.m., she said, and the work begins.
Along with the egg boxes the books are displayed in, the AAUW has been using the same tomato boxes to store the books, she said.
“The tomato boxes are the key to the whole thing, because they’re uniform in size,” Trapp said. “At our current location, we have to stack boxes about 20 feet into the air.
“Because all the boxes are the same size, it works out perfectly,” she said. “If they were different size boxes, it wouldn’t work.”
The books themselves are donated by the community throughout the year, she said, filling about 4,000 boxes. The books are then carefully inspected by the AAUW, which recycles anything that’s not fit for sale.
Books that aren’t used in the sale are sent to the Lock Haven AAUW for its sale, she said, as well as donated to other locations such as womens’ prisons or nursing homes. Theater groups will even contact the AAUW for books to be used as props.
The highest amount of donations comes in during the summer, after the sale, she said. The AAUW stops taking donations in February in preparation for the sale, so once the donation bins are reopened, it’s difficult to keep up.
We’ve never been short on books. And we never take a book back either.
Donna Trapp, AAUW book sale chairwoman
“We’ve never been short on books,” Trapp said. “And we never take a book back either. If it doesn’t sell, we have a gentleman who comes up from Harrisburg and takes the leftovers.”
Trapp said she’s seen the volume of books increase over the years, as well as the amount of money made. Two years ago, the sale brought in its highest earnings — $145,000 — and Trapp said she’s hoping to beat that.
The sale has coincided with Penn State graduation in previous years, she said. With graduation shifted to the first weekend in May, it was easier for dealers to find hotel rooms.
Dealers have been known to come from nearby states — Kentucky, West Virginia, New York and Ohio — she said, and will be in line by 6 a.m. Saturday for the sale.
“They have told us this is one of the cleanest sales,” she said, “because we do go through the books multiple times.”
By Saturday, the first day of sales had garnered the attention the sale is known for. Buyers flocked to the arena, filling the arena parking lot and every available parking space surrounding it.
Readers walked the floor, shouldering shopping bags and containers of every size with their selections. The line to pay one of 10 volunteer cashiers circled the entire arena floor.
Several dealers were observed in the crowd, scanning and comparing book prices and trucking large containers of books. According to Trapp, one dealer purchased $2,700 worth of books.
On Sunday, the crowds had calmed, but were no less interested in finding the best deals. Thanks to a good Saturday, the AAUW on Sunday was ahead fund-wise of where they were on the Sunday of their record-breaking year, Trapp said.
“The goal is to get all the tomato boxes out of here today,” Trapp said Sunday, “so we’ve got a concerted effort on sales. We even added tables of fiction and mystery to get the boxes out.”
She attributed the lack of competition with university graduation for the good day of sales.
All of the funds gathered for the book sale go toward the AAUW’s mission to “promote equity for women and girls,” Trapp said. This includes scholarships for women whose college career has been interrupted, or community grants for nonprofits that help further the mission.
Frequent recipients of AAUW funds include Centre County school libraries, the Centre County Women’s Resource Center and the Jana Marie Foundation, she said. All funds stay local, she added.
The AAUW book sale will continue until Tuesday. Monday is half-price day, according to the AAUW, and Tuesday is bag day — fill your own grocery bag for $7.