It’s wall-to-wall boxes of books over at the Friends of the Library storage unit.
The annual summer sale is back, scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 14, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Due to the overflow of donations and to encourage social distancing, the event will take up the entire parking lot of the Orcas Island Library. From fiction to history to art to children’s books, there are volumes for every area of interest.
“We have a very literate island here. The quality of books we get is really astounding,” said FOIL board chair Ken Gibbs. “Donations have been spectacular. We have books coming out of our ears. We probably have 600 boxes right now.”
The FOIL is a volunteer nonprofit organization, and all proceeds are used to provide materials and programming for the library. In 2019, FOIL granted the library $20,000 and in 2020, it gave $15,000. The funds come from the annual sales, selling books in the library lobby year-round, online sales, donations and memberships.
With the last three sales canceled due to COVID, volunteers have had to get creative with the excess of donations from islanders. They’ve been selling books online and to regional used bookstores.
FOIL board members and a handful of additional volunteers sort through the boxes and bags brimming with books throughout the year. Gibbs says the organization welcomes new board members because the processing of book donations requires a great deal of work.
This past year, good condition items were sold to stores like Serendipity in Friday Harbor and Pelican Bay in Anacortes. Used booksellers also make the trek to Orcas for the annual sales in the summer and winter. Those that are not suitable for resale are packed in pallets and shipped to Discover Books, a wholesaler in Seattle. Orcas Freight provides free transportation. Most leftover items from the August sale will also be sent off-island.
“The wholesaler pays so little that if we had to pay to ship, we’d just throw the books away. It wouldn’t be worth it. Orcas Freight has been very generous. They go out of their way, literally, to haul pallet load after pallet load,” Gibbs said.
Occasionally, an islander will donate a rare and unusual specimen, which FOIL board member Jim Wiemeyer handles selling on eBay. A book on Chinese tapestry recently sold for $1,000. After Orcas resident Barbara Brown passed away, her estate donated nearly 400 cultural and anthropological books on Northwest Native Americans. They will be donated to the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums. Volunteers are scanning the cover of each one so the association can choose which books to accept.
“We have a very good reputation for having a great selection of books,” Gibbs said.