Community spaces at Sierra Vista Mall were packed with book lovers searching stacks for great-bargain-priced novels and memoirs at the Friends of the Library’s 7th annual Big Book Sale during the the last weekend in August.
A wide selection of recently donated books in good condition were on sale for as low as 50 cents and customers walked out with piles of reading material to add to their home libraries. While the rock-bottom prices were a huge attraction, the best part of the giant sale was that all proceeds were donated to the Fresno County Library system to help with the construction and restoration of its libraries as well as to help fund the programs held at various libraries in the area.
Nancy Kast, the Vice President of the Friends of the Library, said the county has 35 library branches, including the book kiosks found at a few locations including the mall. Most of the branches have a Friends of the Library group that specifically holds fundraisers that benefit their branch. Kast, for example, holds fundraising events for the Gillis branch on Fruit and Dakota in Fresno. The Big Book Sale, however, raises funds for all the branches.
For the past decade, Kast said fundraising efforts have gone toward building new libraries in the outlying communities like Orange Cove, Squaw Valley, Kerman and Tranquility, but now the county is focusing its efforts on revamping its older branches, like the one in Clovis and one in Reedley—both of which will have new buildings.
“The Clovis and Reedley libraries are up next to get new libraries,” Kast said. “In Clovis, it’s hard to find a parking spot because the lot is shared is city hall and the police department and Clark Intermediate is right across the street, so they are going to move from that place to a new site where the city is also building a new senior center and a transit hub. The city has already named an architect for the senior center and transit hub and the county is in the process of naming its architect for the library.”
The new library will not only have increased parking, but the library itself will be larger. Kast said the Clovis library was originally built to serve a population of 25,000 and now that Clovis has over 100,000 residents, a larger library is desperately needed.
Further east in the county, the growing town of Reedley is in the same situation and plans are also in place to build a larger library there.
While the Clovis and Reedley libraries are the county’s big projects, funds from the sale also go toward smaller needs, like replacing the furniture at the Woodward Park library, and paying for entertainment and educational program held at the various branches.
“We buy all kinds of things from furniture to special collections and help with programs,” Kast said. “At Gillis, we brought in a guy who plays Dr. Seuss for the kids and we’ve had a guy come in who does Edgar Allen Poe, just all kinds of things … we also need furniture at Woodward. Woodward is about 10 to 12 years old and a lot of people have been using it so we’ve had to replace tables and chairs. We bought kids furniture this last year. It just depends on the needs at the various branches.”
Over 275,000 books were donated for the sale and after tossing out those too damaged and items no longer useful, like 50-year-old textbooks, the Friends of the Library had 240,000 books, CDs and DVDs to sell. Each year, the event raised about $50,000, give or take. Over the last six years, Friends raised about $300,000.