books.jpgBookworms have begun browsing through hundreds of thousands of deeply discounted titles at San Francisco’s 48th annual Big Book Sale benefiting San Francisco Public Library programs.

The sale, held at Fort Mason Center’s Festival Pavilion today through Sunday, offers hundreds of thousands of books for $3 or less and is open to the public.

The books have been culled by volunteers and library staff from local library members, businesses, estates, residents and publishers who donate the items, Friends of the San Francisco Public Library spokeswoman Katie Ambellan said.

Proceeds–which total about $250,000 each year–go toward library literacy programs for children, teens and adults, according to the library’s nonprofit organization.

The Friends nonprofit group is comprised of members who advocate, fundraise and support the library.

On the sale’s final day on Sunday, the leftover books will be sold for $1 a piece. Sunday is often the busiest day, Ambellan said.

Although touted as a book sale, there are also DVDs, CDs and books on tape among the nearly 500,000 items available for purchase. The goods are organized into about 100 categories, including Americana, mystery, fantasy, cooking and foreign language.

The logistics for the multi-day sale involve more than 400 volunteers hauling 8,000 boxes of items from 18 trucks onto 500 tables set up at the indoor center. Leading up to the sale, books and other items are kept at a donation center in the Mission District, Ambellan said.

As part of the five-day event, a “Literary Labyrinth” will be created outdoors at Fort Mason on Saturday. Patrons will be able to walk through the labyrinth, made entirely of books, while browsing titles and grabbing a few to purchase, Ambellan said.

Labyrinth creator and designer Lars Howlett, who lives in Half Moon Bay, said Saturday that he anticipates visitors will “respond to the space and titles” of the nearly 2,000 books used to create the art installation.

The visual artist, photographer and teacher said he has been creating these “meditative pathways” for about six years and has used an array of materials aside from books including stones, bottlecaps, shoes and even apple trees to form labyrinth walls.

New at this year’s book sale, visitors can find daily clues on Friends of the Public Library’s Facebook and Twitter pages that lead to surprises hidden in books scattered throughout the stacks.

Concealed between pages are gift certificates to Readers Bookstores, located at Fort Mason and the main library at 100 Larkin St. in San Francisco, theater and museum tickets, restaurant deals and other goodies.

Last year, about 15,000 visitors stopped by the sale. Many eager book-buyers include bookstore owners who purchase books to resell at used bookshops, Ambellan said.
For more information about the sale or to volunteer visit

The last day of the sale is Sunday. Each day, the sale runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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