Shoppers search for favorites and bargains at the 2021 sale.
The 60th annual State College AAUW Used Book Sale — one of the largest used-book sales on the East Coast — takes place Saturday, May 14 through Tuesday, May 17 at Penn State’s Snider Agricultural Arena.
During the sale, thousands of visitors converge on the Ag Arena to browse and buy up to a quarter of a million books and other materials. Special features include children’s books, collectibles, puzzles and games, a half-price day and a discount “bag day.”
Proceeds fund grants to support projects of Center County nonprofits that align with AAUW’s mission, and scholarships for women residing in Center County. The sale also supports national AAUW initiatives, STEM programs in Center County, and branch programs.
Last year’s sale raised approximately $ 156,000 from more than 5,000 shoppers. That’s impressive, considering the first sale in 1962 grossed $ 179.19. However small the sale was during those early years, AAUW State College has built upon the knowledge of members and past successes to continue that tradition of raising money for community grants and scholarships for women and girls.
Chairperson of the AAUW Used Book Sale Dina Liberatore says, “It has proven to be something that the community really enjoys and still supports after all this time.”
The book sale features more than 250,000 titles in 30 categories —- ranging from cookbooks to mysteries. Children’s books tend to be the most popular, says Liberatore. “It’s a great opportunity to find clean used books in a variety of subject areas,” she says.
All books are half price on May 16, and May 17 is bag day, when people can fill a “bring-your-own” bag with books for $ 8.
Books are donated during the year, cleaned up, and stored away until the big weekend. Volunteers discard damaged, highlighted, and out-of-date books, making the event one of the “cleanest” sales around.
Since the 2021 sale, 2,500 boxes of books have been sorted and priced and are ready to go. Doors open promptly at 9 am each day. Many shoppers arrive early the first day of the sale to be among the first to enter the Ag Arena. Penn State policy does not allow individuals to stay outside overnight, so those arriving as early as late Friday afternoon may place one box or container per person in line with their name on it to hold their place. People must be in line, one person per box / container, before 6:30 am Saturday. That’s when numbers are distributed to determine order of entry into the arena; distribution ends at 8:45.
The book sale has grown and evolved over the past 60 years. From the first workshop on West Aaron Drive to the current location on High Tech Road across from University Park Airport, the workshop has moved five times. Each move provided enhanced space for collecting and sorting books.
The sale has changed as leadership innovated to make it more efficient and convenient for customers. Several thousand tomato boxes, bought for $ 1 each in 1996, allow volunteers to pack, protect and stack books more easily. In 2019, the used book sale started taking credit cards all four days of the sale, allowing a quicker, more convenient form of payment.
Even the timing and location of the sale have evolved over the years. The first sales were held earlier in the year at the HUB, forcing the sale to compete with weather and other events. The sale moved to the Ag Arena in 1999 to allow more space for books and shoppers, and better parking. Mother’s Day weekend was a sale staple until Penn State graduation moved to that weekend, making travel to the sale, parking and finding hotels more difficult. Today, the sale has settled comfortably into the second weekend in May (although the 2021 sale was postponed until October due to the pandemic).
One thing that has not changed is the dedication of AAUW State College members and friends. It takes hundreds of volunteers to run this well-oiled machine, from those who sort and price the books to the volunteers who move books into the Ag Arena and help throughout the sale. Without them, none of the good work that AAUW State College does for women and the local community would be possible.
“We are lucky to live in a community that enjoys reading and supports education,” Liberatore says. T&G
Kristen Gimelli is a Town & Gown intern who graduated this month from Penn State with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism.