Friends of the Library Sale Returns to the Metro

The smells, sights, and sounds (or lack thereof) within the walls of libraries have ignited imaginations, sparked creativities, and tapped into the potential for making an environment that isn’t afraid to challenge, educate or influence its inhabitants.

The first public library in America began with Benjamin Franklin donating books to a town that later named itself after him: Franklin, Massachusetts. In 1790, and although the town originally asked for a bell, Franklin donated a collection of books to the town, claiming that “sense” was better than “sound”. The town then voted to make the books freely available to town members, creating the first public lending library.

During the Civil War, libraries started to spread like wildfire. Instead of operating under a subscription model, these libraries were board-governed and tax-funded, offering services that were open to the general public, focused on serving their needs and free.

Today, these libraries hold magic and wonder for all who enter. There are over 30 libraries from Edmond to Norman, filled to the brim with books and spilling out promises of knowledge into our city. Perfectly attuned to the thirst for knowledge our city has—our libraries provide great resources for us all. From craft days to movie viewings, painting classes to lectures, family fun to book signings, our libraries keep our appetite for learning alive.

One of the best ways that our libraries reach out into our community is through their annual Friends of the Library Book Sale. The Metropolitan Library System Friends Program was created in 1978 as a volunteer organization that recognizes the enhanced value that quality library systems contribute to the community. These Friends are made up of people that the libraries lean on for support. They are the individuals who are passionate about reading, learning, education and entertainment as a means for building a stronger community.

The biggest fundraiser the Friends do is the Annual Friends of the Library book sale. Through this, 600,000+ books, DVDs and CDs are made readily available to all at low prices, funds are raised for the community libraries, and the arts-loving people of the city are able commune in the magical event.

We asked the questions: Why should we go the book sale? What is it doing for the individuals for the community? Why not just go to the library? When asked why she thought the sale benefitted the community Beth Toland, a Friend known as the “voice of the book sale” recounted her childhood:

“I grew up around books, and when children grow up around books, they are more apt to be readers. There’s something comforting about seeing a library in your own home.”

Toland has several years of experience working at the sale. “The friends of the library book sale gives a lot of opportunity for people to get their hands on affordable books they otherwise might not have been able to possess,” she said. “Every year, I see kids coming in with their preciously saved money to buy books.”

Toland believes that literature is art that feeds the soul, and the more books that can get into the hands of the community, the stronger the community will become. Books are vital to the wellbeing of everyone—both in the library and in the home. By having books at home, individuals are instilled with a thirst for more books. However, having books at home doesn’t mean you won’t go the library. In fact, we think it fosters a unique love for books and learning, making it more likely that people will attend.

On top of that, libraries provide many more services for the public than just offering books. There are summer reading programs, children’s story hour, free Internet, movie nights, access to public documents and so much more. Libraries encompass our whole lives. The Friends of the Library Book Sale is one way that libraries can receive funds for activities and programs that are not in their regular yearly budget. Libraries can fill out a “Friends grant” request form and send it in as a proposition. If approved, the funds from the book sale go toward helping those libraries receive the things that they need. In years past, friends grants have gone toward filling shelves with books, summer reading programs, buying computer software, decorating the library, and so much more.

After the sale closes to the general public, the doors reopen to so that schoolteachers, non-profit organizations, hospitals, and more can come and gather books to replenish their libraries. “The sale completes the library circle,” Beth Toland said. “The buyers leave and the funds are collected, and then those books that are left over go to the places that are really starved for books.”

The annual Friends of the Library book sale touches all aspects of our community whether that be through the books, or the people, or the places the books go. 

From Moore Public Library to Edmond Public Library, the Friends of the Library sale benefits all. The Belle Isle Public Library received funds for their children’s and teen rooms.

“We love the Friends,” one worker said. “The funds we received went to buying Xboxes. The Xboxes have provided a gateway for all sorts of programs, providing a neat hang out place for teens. The Friends create a circle of promise for our community.”

Libraries have also received funds for sending their staff members to continue their education through conferences and interactive wall art for the children’s section, taking literature-as-art to a whole new level and creating a whole new world of possibilities. 

“We donate our books to the sale and give our resources to the community, and it’s nice to get back a little in return so that the cycle can continue.”

This year, the Friends of the Library sale will be held February 19 from 5:30-9 p.m. for members only, and February 20-21 from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m., free for the general public. The friends announced that this year they are accepting credit/debit cards with a minimum purchase of $20. Cash and checks are still acceptable, and there will be an ATM in the lobby. The sale will be located at the Oklahoma Expo Hall at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds: 3213 Wichita Walk, Oklahoma City, OK 73107.

Take a look behind-the-scenes at our photoshoot for this spread in Linked. Photography by: Jonathan Burkhart.