As I’ve mentioned before (see my write-ups for 2016 and 2019) I’m a big fan of the annual book sale — formerly known as the Giant Used Book Sale — put on by the Friends of the Guelph Public Library. Because of the COVID-19 lockdown this event was cancelled the last two years, but this past week it was back on, and I was waiting in line to enter on opening night.
I knew going in that I was going to be disappointed, which helped. In the past the sale took over a small warehouse, but this year they were in the same building but had been shunted aside into some office space adjoining the warehouse proper. The result being that the floor space was reduced from 30 000 to 8 000 square feet. That was too tight, and there simply wasn’t enough space for all the books, or all the people. They had a limit of 375 people they could let in at one time, and there were that many waiting in line when the doors opened on the first night (which was also the only day there was an admission fee). Then there were so many people packed together when I got inside that I had to give up on the fiction room entirely as I literally couldn’t move through it.
As an aside, I came away from the experience figuring that, having escaped getting COVID thus far, if I missed getting it this week I could feel confident I had achieved some kind of immunity. So far, all clear! I remain a NOVID, or COVID virgin.
Not having enough room for all the books wasn’t quite as bad as the restricted mobility, since it meant the tables had to keep getting replenished with books from the storage area as the sale went on. So it made sense to keep going back. I attended on three separate days and found a big difference in the selection each day.
All-in-all it was a pleasant enough experience, though when I filled out the feedback form online I told them they needed to find a bigger venue (something I’m sure they already knew). The volunteers were great, and all the people were friendly despite the crowding, semi-competitive atmosphere, and lingering COVID anxieties. I figure around 20% of the people attending were wearing masks. But nobody was yelling at anyone, which was nice.
I was lucky in not wanting to shop for fiction. As it is, I’m always impressed at the kinds of books that people seem to flock to the most. The people who buy bales of books were mainly buying genre fiction: thrillers, mysteries, romance, SF/Fantasy, and YA. You can say what you want about those kinds of books, but the people who read them read a lot. Meanwhile, the rooms I was interested in — history, biography, criticism — were only lightly attended, and the books weren’t moving quickly. Which was nice for me, anyway.