CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha County Public Library's annual book sale will kick off on Saturday -- exactly one week before early voting begins for a school excess levy designed to keep the county's libraries fully operating.
Despite the cancellation of the West Virginia Book Festival because of financial difficulties tied to a court decision, the used book sale -- which began 30 years ago -- will continue this year at the Charleston Civic Center.
Hundreds of books ranging in price from 50 cents to $2 will be for sale in the North Hall of the Civic Center starting at 8 a.m., and this year's collection is bigger than ever, according to Book Sale Coordinator Sandy Frercks.
"When the first sale was held in '83, it was a lot smaller. It was just a few boxes out on the front steps," she said. "Now, there's a line each year snaking through the Civic Center early before the doors even open."
Unlike past years when the book sale was a weekend-long event, this year's sale will only be on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
That decision is among a slew of cost-saving measures library officials have been forced to take after the Supreme Court ruled in February that Kanawha County Schools is no longer required to financially support the library system.
The court decision eliminated a 40 percent chuck of the library system's entire budget, and could mean branch closures and layoffs.
Now, Kanawha County Schools and the Kanawha County Public Library are asking voters to approve an additional property tax that will bring in funds for technology and facility improvements for schools, while bringing libraries back to a stable budget.
The book sale is one of the library's largest fundraisers, and it raised more than $30,000 last year.
The sale used to be held each year in conjunction with the West Virginia Book Festival, a multi-day event celebrating books and reading each fall.
The festival was established in 2000 and has attracted bestselling authors like Nicholas Sparks and Charlaine Harris.
But the Kanawha County Public Library Board of Directors voted with reluctance in March to cancel the festival, saying it could save $100,000 in the midst of its financial crisis.
"For the book sale to continue is good -- it shows that it hopefully can stand on its own if it needed to one day, but hopefully, we'll get the book festival back," Frercks said. "We have people come from all over the country for this sale. We have dealers, we have home-schoolers, and just people who have a love for books -- a love that hasn't gone away because we have electronic devices these days.
"Some people just like the feeling of having a book in their hand," she said.
While there is no official count of how many books have been donated so far, about 1,500 standard-sized boxes were already filled last week, Frercks said.
DVDs, CDs and videos will also be for sale.
The audio/visual offerings are the only thing that's changed about the book sale in three decades, Frercks said.
"We've come down on the prices when it comes to that. There was a time when VHS was the medium for movies and we were able to sell them for $3. Now they're 50 cents," she said. "That's the only area where our prices have changed, though. The prices on books have not changed. It's still a great deal."
A "Collector's Corner" at the sale will also offer more unique books, with the highest-priced item available a $250 signed, limited-edition Tennessee Williams book.
Doors open at 8 a.m. The sale will close at 3 p.m., and then reopen at 3:30 p.m. for the bag/box sale, which allows people to purchase either an entire bag of books for $2 or a boxful for $5.
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