Kingsport Book Fair benefits local literacy programs

Carmen Musick • Mar 2, 2020 at 10:40 AM

Looking for a good book? Or thousands of them? Then, you’re in luck because the 2020 Kingsport Book Fair is just a few days away.

The annual event, benefiting Friends of the Kingsport Public Library and First Book-Greater Kingsport, runs March 5-8 at the Kingsport Civic Auditorium. Regular book fair hours are Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 12:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free all three days. Shoppers are encouraged to stop in early and often to browse this year’s vast inventory.

For those who just can’t wait until Friday, the popular preview sale will be held Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. Admission is $10 that day, but it gets you early access to this year’s treasure trove of books.

“We start fresh. We do not hold books back. We don’t sell anything in advance online,” said Gail Preslar, a volunteer with Friends of the Library. “We have anything and everything. One thing we hear, year after year, is ‘I always find books that I can’t find anywhere else.’”

The donated items received since last year’s book fair include thousands of printed books, audio books, music CDs, DVDs and vinyl record albums. Each item has been individually priced and sorted in one of 30 categories (based on format and topic).

A fundraiser for the two literacy programs, the book fair is a true community event and always has been. In 1961, the Kingsport branch of the American Association of University Women started the book fair and held it every other year until 2011. Each fair was bigger than the last, growing from a few tables to thousands of boxes.

“Now we have two rooms with the tables just groaning, full of books,” said Preslar.

“The stuff just comes in. The generosity of the community to give back is just amazing. Thanks to their donations, someone else gets to enjoy the books and we raise needed funds for these two (literacy) programs. The book fair is really important to both organizations, to be able to do the stuff we do.”

From classic and contemporary books on World War II to birding and other nature topics to sports and transportation titles, romance novels and more, the sale truly offers something for everyone.

“I like to tell people there are books in there that if your momma knew you were reading them, her heart would explode with joy. And, there are books in there that if your momma even knew you were touching them, her hair would be on fire,” Preslar said, with a laugh.

Preslar says the vast offerings may come as a shock to newcomers, but book fair veterans — and even vendors from other states — make the annual pilgrimage for a reason. The sheer number of books and the variety is unparalleled.

“The cookbooks, oh my gosh,” Preslar said. “We’ve got thousands and thousands of cookbooks. People say they’re not as popular as they once were, that people don’t use them as much, but I bet we have at least 300 boxes of cookbooks.”

A few things to know before you go:

• Items are priced from 25 cents to $5, based on age, condition and popularity.

• Patrons buying at least $25 worth of items can use cash or major credit cards. Sales under $25 are cash only.

• Everything will be half-price beginning at 4 p.m. on Saturday, and the $10 bag sale begins at 12:45 p.m. on Sunday. Individual items remain half-price on Sunday as well.

Volunteers are always needed to help unbox books on Thursday, Preslar said. Hint: Volunteering provides a little sneak peek of what’s available once the sale starts. 

“The more volunteers we have to unbox those books, the better,” she stressed. Anyone interested in volunteering at the book fair can contact her at (423) 967-7135.