Pensacola, Florida
Saturday February 23rd 2019


Books With Friends

By Joshua Dylan Carroll

This weekend, the Friends of West Florida Public Library (WFPL) will host yet another one of their mega-popular book sales at the downtown library on Spring Street.

By the time the doors open, the early birds who prioritized their place in line will scurry inside. The first floor will be standing room only, with more residents filling the space than at any other time in the year. Seasoned booksellers hit the sale early, balancing armfuls of books up to their chin to bring back to their own used bookstores.

The thousands of books for sale come from what the West Florida Public Libraries (WFPL) have collected as donations, which can be dropped off anytime at the back end of the Spring Street branch.

The stacks also come from books that are coming out of circulation, discarded due to their lack of checkouts or having been replaced by updated editions.

The first day, every book will be sold for $1, be it hardcover or paperbacks. The second day will play host to the popular “bag sale”—where visitors can take as many books as they can fit in a brown paper grocery page for $5. Friends of WFPL website taunts buyers to try and beat the record for most books in one bag—which is 67.

The Friends of WFPL volunteers that help to organize and run the sale expect to have well over 1,000 visitors this weekend.

In addition to hosting events like this weekends’ book sale, the group and its members have been a critical component in Pensacola’s literary scene for over 40 years. They initially organized as affectionate members of the community that sought to preserve the integrity of Pensacola’s library system and fill in the gaps that the annual budget couldn’t reach.

Since their founding in 1973, they have raised over $2 million that has been funneled into special events and outreach programs to strengthen local literacy. One of their core efforts is the WFPL Summer Reading program, which reaches over 2,000 kids. Under their elected board of directors, the entirely volunteer-led group meets regularly to find new initiatives and to hone in on their ongoing projects. In the days leading up to the Big Summer Book Sale, veteran members organize their peers into lugging the goods from their newly acquired storage warehouse. Leading that charge is Linda Williams, former secretary and president and, for the past six years, book sale chair.

“Last time we had the book sale, we loaded three 27-foot truckloads,” Williams said with a laugh. “It’s impressive how much work really goes into these sales.”

Williams went on to say that come the day, all kinds of members show up out of the woodwork. “Folks that have been involved for 20 years walk in the door and ask how they can help. There’s a lot of scrambling, but it always works out, someway or the other.”

To get the word about the sale out, the Friends of WFPL advertise the sale on This encourages other used booksellers in the larger Southeast area to come out and be a part of the weekend. In an age of online retailers dominating the used books market, the enthusiastic encouragement of these often-unseen collaborators is a refreshing rabbit hole to go down. Pensacola residents can peek into this world by spending an afternoon on Navy Boulevard at Hawsey’s Book Index or checking out the booths at T&W Flea Market. The local used bookselling scene features an array of characters and their interests that curate an ever-changing cycle of stock in the city.

The Spring Street library’s freshly renovated bookstore, which opens sparsely throughout the week, has been carrying an impressive selection of titles since undergoing a change in management last year. The Friends of WFPL also work with Open Books, blending their titles over the seasons to help to find a home for the lot of donated items.

Anyone interested in volunteering is invited to visit the Friends of WFPL’s website to find ways to be involved. “We always welcome more volunteers,” Williams said. “We’ll put them to work.”

WHAT: A two-day book sale hosted Friends of WFPL
WHEN: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, July 14 and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, July 15
WHERE: Downtown Library, 239 N. Spring St.
COST: $1 books Saturday, $5 “bag sale” Sunday