Thursday, September 21, 2017

A peek behind the scenes: The Big Book Sale part 1

Ah, the Tuesday night members' preview of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library Big Book Sale is now but a memory, and my feet and back are still aching (whatever inspired me to do an extra 15 minutes of cardio at the gym during my Tuesday morning workout, it was clearly not well thought out). The sale was wonderful, as per the norm, and enormous fun, and I'm currently frantically taking pics and scanning covers of my new acquisitions to share with you soon. Spoiler alert: I exercised precious little self control this year, though, really, when have I ever?

In the meantime, however, this year I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak behind the scenes of the massive setup work in progress on Monday afternoon, as well as the final last minute fine-tuning just before the sale opened on Tuesday. I have to give a big thank you to Lisa Perry, a dedicated volunteer with the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library and also, happily for me, a reader of this blog, for allowing me this wonderful preview. And I also have to thank Brenda Salguero, volunteer manager for the Friends, for taking time out of what must have been a crazy afternoon on Monday to talk to us about her team of volunteers (50-60 present that afternoon, even more expected for early Tuesday) and some of the logistics they dealt with. She also mentioned the staggering amount the organization must pay to rent the space at Fort Mason—San Francisco is indeed not a cheap city!—which is a large part of the reason that the spring book sale was, sadly, discontinued this year.

(This must have been part of my inspiration for doing my part to defray the costs by splurging on books, but more on that in my next post.)

Andy took lots of great photos of the space, the empty tables, and the shopping carts awaiting frantic shoppers:

It was fascinating to see things starting to come together. Obviously, Tuesday was even more exciting. First, we stopped in at the permanent Friends of the SFPL bookshop just around the corner from the pavilion where the Big Book Sale is held. There, I got to meet Deborah, a fellow blogger whom many of you know as Book Barmy, who got me warmed up for the big sale by pointing out an irresistible book she'd thought belonged on my shelves, and also directing me to a couple of sections of vintage books that I'd never noticed on previous visits. The books themselves I'll save for the next post, but a big thank you to Deborah, too, for the warm welcome and the inside scoop.

Then it was on to the pavilion, where we had the distinct pleasure of bypassing the long and winding line in order to get a thrilling glimpse of the fully assembled sale (with just a bit of last minute tidying on the part of the heroic volunteers). It was a heavenly sight, still in its pristine, unrifled glory, and with only a few volunteers lingering here and there preparing for the madness.

I convinced Lisa to pose for a picture as well, to give credit where credit was due.

Then I spent a few minutes gazing lustfully at the hardcover fiction tables, which you must admit were a thing of beauty.

The peril of looking at these pics in retrospect... that I see books I missed at the time. Drat!

It wouldn't be a book sale post without the traditional "geek with granny cart" pic:

Ready, set...

While I held my strategic position until the starting bell (there's no bell, really, but wouldn’t it be fun if there were? or perhaps a gong?), Andy waited to capture a couple of photos of the very beginning of the rush:

And then we were off, and I was lost in the intent search for treasures for several hours, which remain something of a blur, though I am sure I was having fun.

We're venturing back to the sale on Saturday morning, as new books are put out each day, so who knows what additional treasures there might be yet to find? In the meantime, I'm working on getting a handle on what I already have, and I'll share it all with you by Sunday at the latest.

In the meantime, here's one more picture Andy snapped of two of the volunteers in their Sunday best:

The sale continues through Sunday—see here for details.


  1. Looks like a fantastic sale Scott. There's always the element of a treasure-hunt with second hand books that you don't get in a normal bookshop. If I ever visit San Francisco again, I'll make sure it's the library sale week!

  2. Do you realise how green with envy we all are - well those of us who live in the UK anyway!

  3. What fun! I have helped set up library friends group book sales, both formally and informally. (The informally is that when things are in the wrong place or previous buyers have left things in a mess, I can't help but set things right. In used book stores also.) But never something as large as this! I wish I could be there, but way to many miles to travel and too much on my plate.

    Hope you found some treasures.


  4. Oh oh oh. What riches.

    Scott, I can't believe there was a Vintage Section and you didn't know about it. You must be biting your elbow!

    And now, I'm picturing the mayhem inflicted by Crazed Bibliophiles with Carts. (Crash! Bang! Ouch! I saw it first!!!!)

  5. I am all excited and I live in Pasadena. The thrill of the hunt! And there you are, all that extra cardio, looking stunning in the red t-shirt! I can hardly wait for more! Tom

  6. Wonderful to meet you Scott, so pleased you got to enjoy the preview and the store.

    Reciprocated post highlighting your blog and Dean Street at


  7. A book sale with a cart - what bliss! The ones I attend are usually very congested and include children (and occasionally a dealer) crawling underneath the tables, so there is barely room for the people. You would like a large one I have attended a couple times in Connecticut which begins with a cannon! I think the attendees would be very disappointed if they changed that tradition!

  8. Wow, I can't wait to see what you bought!


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