When the Friends of the Library of Hawaii launched in 1879, the literacy group received early support from the royal family and charter member King Kalakaua. One and a half centuries later, that legacy continues with the auction of a book written and signed by Kalakaua’s sister — Queen Liliuokalani — at the Friends’ 63rd annual book sale this weekend.
The book — an autographed copy of Liliuokalani’s "Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen" — is just one of 150,000 volumes available for purchase at the annual sale, which runs Saturday through June 27 in the McKinley High School cafeteria.
Books start at 10 cents for children’s books and go upward of $5,000 for a rare collection on the voyages of Capt. Cook. Bidding for the book autographed by Liliuokalani is expected to start at $1,500.
Both the Liliuokalani book and Captain Cook collection will be sold in a silent auction that kicks off tomorrow with a members-only preview and closes at 7 p.m. June 25.
Volunteers have spent the past few months combing through more than half a million donated books to select the 150,000 volumes that will go on sale this week. In addition to the collectibles, this year’s highlights include thousands of rare art books donated by a University of Hawaii professor, an extensive collection of out-of-print Hawaiiana and books written in Japanese, Chinese and Korean.
"There’s always something for everyone," said Stephanie Rezentes, book sale co-chairwoman. "We never see anyone leave empty-handed."
As customers buy the existing stock, volunteers will replenish the books from their storehouse in Kaimuki. The books were donated or collected from local libraries within the past 12 months, meaning the selection is entirely different from year to year. Any books left over from the sale this year will be donated to Palama Settlement, a nonprofit organization providing support for youth and senior citizens in the Palama and Kalihi area.
"We’re continuously restocking with new inventory," Byrde Cestare, Friends of the Library executive director, said.
Sale organizers estimate attendance will hit 25,000, and they are hoping revenue will top the $168,000 brought in last year. Proceeds will go to support programs and cover operating costs at the state’s 51 public libraries.
Revenue from this year’s sale is critical to fill gaps in library funding left by state budget cutbacks. According to Cestare, the state library budget fell by more than 20 percent in the past two years, and many libraries have had a difficult time staying open. Some of the proceeds from this year’s sale will fund the Keep the Doors Open campaign, which gives money to libraries to cover staff wages and basic operating costs.
"It all goes back to public literacy," Cestare said. "If you buy from us, you’re supporting your local library and libraries across the state."
The annual event has turned into a community effort with supporters coming from all over the island to pitch in. In addition to food donations from corporate sponsors like Safeway and Zippy’s, hundreds of volunteers move tables and unload boxes. Students from athletic teams and service clubs at local high schools, including McKinley, Saint Louis and Farrington, also have gotten involved.
"This is a real volunteer effort," Cestare said. "Without them … we’d be lost."
To give back to local schools, Friends of the Library of Hawaii has worked with the Renee B. Fisher Foundation to distribute book-buying grants to 75 public school teachers. Now in its third year, the program gives teachers — who often pay for books out of pocket — $75 to spend at the book fair. With book prices so low, Rezentes says teachers often have to make multiple trips to the sale because they cannot carry all of the books they buy with the grant money.
"We really want the public to be able to buy books," Rezentes said. "It’s a real win-win for the community."