The AAUW (American Association of University Women) State College Branch holds an annual used book sale on the Pennsylvania State University main campus. It's reported to be one of the largest used book sales in the country, and this year they offered 4,000 cartons of books, estimated to include over 400,000 titles. The sale spans four days, usually over Mother's Day weekend. Saturday and Sunday are "full-price" days, Monday is "half-price", and Tuesday is "Bag Day", when bags of books go for $5. AAUW member volunteers work year round to organize and price donations so that the book sale runs smoothly. All books are categorized and placed on tables according to genre and subject: fiction, literature, science fiction, mystery, history, memoir, business, education, social sciences, foreign languages, cookbooks, mathematics, self-help, art, and others that I can't remember.
I attended the book sale every year that I worked at Penn State (2000-2012), and I've also attended the last two years, using it as an excuse to visit friends and family. I'm not such a fanatic that I have to be there when it opens up first thing in the morning, but there are a lot of folks who like to be the first in to the sale. They include dealers and collectors as well as your general run-of-the-mill bibliophiles. Usually I go in the afternoon or morning of each day, so this year was a big change for me. Since the book sale fell not only on Mother's Day, but also on graduation weekend, I couldn't get a hotel room for the weekend. The closest rooms were in Clearfield and Altoona. While that was do-able, I decided not to go for the weekend, and instead drove down on Sunday and stayed until Tuesday.
I arrived at the sale on Sunday evening after dinner, and I was pleased to see that the usual elbow-to-elbow crowd was much thinner in the evening. Since it was full-price day and I had every intention of coming back the next two days, I was very selective and only picked out four reasonably-priced history books. I dropped by the next morning as well, thinking that there wouldn't be a big crowd on a Monday, but I was wrong about that! There was a huge crowd, but lots of books left. I managed to keep myself reined in and only bought about 18 books, spending about $20. On the third day the crowd was even bigger. This was bag day, and each bag of books cost $5, regardless of the size of the bag. They were handing out plastic grocery bags, but I used one of my OCLC plastic tote bags (if you're a librarian you probably know what I mean), and I picked out another 12 or so books. I have so much fiction at home that I tried to avoid the fiction and literature tables this year. I ended up buying a lot of history, memoir, and self-help (financial advice, especially). Even so, I'm trying to cut back on my book buying and catch up on all of the books that I have at home and haven't read yet, so I didn't buy nearly as many books at the book sale that I usually do. Altogether I bought 34 books for about $32; you can't beat that!