By Richard Melendez, Digital Editor and Bibliopile
Over 150,000 individual books, in more than 70 different categories, with about 15,000 shoppers passing through over the course of nine days. If this sounds like a big, epic deal, that’s because it is. I’m talking about the Friends of the Library of Hawai‘i Annual Booksale at McKinley High School. Now in its 72nd year, this megalithic shopping event is a dream for both casual and hardcore book lovers as well as shoppers and bargain hunters of all stripes. If you want to add to your summer reading list, or want to pick up something for the plane ride home, this is the place for you.
From its humble beginnings in 1947 where it earned a mere $400, the sale has grown considerably with monies earned supporting the Hawai‘i State Library System and its programs. During this nine-day bonanza, the cafeteria at McKinley High School is transformed, walls lined with bookshelves and floorspace overtaken by tables filled with stacks and stacks of books. The sale also features CDs, LPs, DVDs, artworks, maps comic books, manga and magazines. There is something for everyone here.
Crowds shuffle through aisles, backpacks gently brushing up against shoulders as shoppers squeeze by each other. If you’re averse to hitting the mall on Black Friday or the week leading up to Christmas, this might not be the scene for you. However, speaking for myself who despises Christmas (okay, all) shopping, every year I will eagerly throw myself into this mass of bargain hunters like a drunk frat boy hurling myself into a mosh pit. Rummaging through the stacks is like a treasure hunt, one that I find oddly soothing. This is a book lover’s heaven—a room filled with books, and all of them available for but a pittance.
While weekends are without a doubt the busiest periods, weekdays are steady but more manageable for the agoraphobic. However, it should be noted that with the weekend’s busier activity comes a higher turnover in merchandise, meaning that at any given time new box-loads of precious, bibliophilic gold can be brought out from the wings for the patient (and deliberate) shopper to rummage through. So braving the crowds does have its virtues. And with this quickly rotating stock comes new discoveries to be had, so if you don’t find anything that appeals to you right away, give it time. Many people (*raises hand) make repeat visits on different days to pore through fresh stock and take advantage of the special sales days where additional discounts on certain categories or genres can be found. On its final day, everything is only 50 cents.
It doesn’t feel like summer to me until the McKinley Booksale rolls around. Even though my personal to-read pile is now far too big to ever get through in this lifetime, I have no qualms about buying more reading material when it’s McKinley time. I won’t even try to delude myself into thinking that I won’t buy anything. If I walk in, I’m walking out with books, period. My backpack will be bulging at the seams, my shopping bags overladen, my shoulders and back will be aching, and my nightstand will buckle under the weight of even more books. I’m good with that.
The Friends of the Library of Hawai‘i Booksale runs from June 22 through June 30 at McKinley High School cafeteria, 1039 S. King Street in Honolulu (parking lot and cafeteria entrance are on the Pensacola Street side). Hours vary, so be sure to check the schedule on their website.