CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The doors won't open until 9 a.m. Saturday, but hundreds of people will start lining up outside the Charleston Civic Center more than an hour early.
It's not a major concert. It's not the circus. The event is free to attend, and just about everything available for purchase at it can be had for $3 or less.
It's the Kanawha County Public Library's annual used book sale, part of the West Virginia Book Festival, this weekend at the Charleston Civic Center.
Nearly 30 years ago, the used book sale started when librarians stacked boxes of books on the Kanawha County Public Library's front steps and sold them to passersby, said Pam May, chairwoman of the Book Festival.
The sale moved to the walkway next to the Charleston library, then to the city parking garage on Dickinson Street, then to a building on Brawley Walkway and, finally, to the Civic Center.
The West Virginia Book Festival -- in its 12th year -- started when library workers realized they could offer more to the 4,000 people who were attending the used book sale, May said.
"When I started working here 15 years ago, we had the used book sale in the four parlors at the Civic Center. We had to count the number of people who came in because the fire marshal allowed only so many people in," May recalled. "We had to stop the line and let more people in as others left. We outgrew the parlors and now we have it in the South Hall."
The space still isn't big enough for the nearly 8,000 bookworms who visit the used book sale now, May said, but no other location offers enough space.
Before the thousands of readers stroll through the thousands and thousands of used books, someone has to arrange them by category on tables in the Civic Center.
The library collects books year-round. Piles of them are donated when people move away, a family member dies or when the library weeds out its own collection, May said. Seven community volunteers work throughout the year just to sort the books at the library. The books are slipped onto shelves relevant to their topic. (Books that are not in good condition -- mold and missing pages are the main issues -- aren't part of the sale.)
Volunteers then put the books in boxes that have color-coded labels depending on the genre. Boxes labeled "biography" are stacked on top of "mystery," "medicine," and "craft and hobbies." The boxes are stored in a warehouse on Bigley Avenue.
About 50 volunteers and library employees will help unpack the 1,100 boxes of books Friday, the day before the Book Festival opens. Trucks full of boxes on pallets are unloaded.