WALLA WALLA - This weekend's 37th annual American Association of University Women Book Sale was a first for Terri Stanley of Walla Walla.
"It is more marvelous than I had ever imagined," Stanley said, while standing next to at least 20 haphazardly stacked books she had collected.
Her stack would grow, as the AAUW Book Sale newbie rummaged through the hobbies section, pulling out a few books on bottle collecting.
Eventually, Stanley dragged herself away from the table and went to pay for her newly found treasures, all the while resisting the temptation to dive under the table and spend even more time and more money on the books stored underneath.
"I didn't even realize they had boxes upon boxes under the table," Stanley said.
By the time Stanely finished shopping for books on Friday, she estimated she spent somewhere between $200-$300 to amass a trunkload, she said.
Stanley is not an anomaly for the AAUW Book Sale.
The three-day event is known for drawing in hundreds of people, many of whom spend hundreds of dollars apiece on what is estimated to be a collection of 30,000 books for sale, event co-chair Beth Kreger said.
Along with the throng of bookworms who attend the yearly event are a small collection of book dealers from across the Pacific Northwest.
Just before opening at noon on Friday, as close to 200 people lined up outside the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center Ballroom, Kreger said the dealers were easy to spot.
They were the ones with the rolling crates and scanners, which they used to quickly scan, ascertain the value and stow away a find.
Among them was dealer Scott Blomquist of Anaconda, Mont., who said the reason he keeps coming back is the quality of the collection.
"They do a very good job of picking out and getting rid of older books," Blomquist said.
Blomquist, who specializes in academic books, said he is also drawn to this book sale because of the local colleges, which help add to the academic collections.
On Friday, the dealer had purchased a psychology series for $75; he estimated he will be able to sell it for $300.
"We try to price our books below the average low price so there is meat on them. Generally we get a lot of book buyers," event co-chair Kathy Foster said.
Blomquist, like other dealers, started his book-buying day when the doors opened on Friday, but it was after the crowds thinned that his work really began.
Crouched on his knees for hours, the dealer dug through box after box, quickly determining if a book was of value then moving on to the next.
"When everyone is gone you keep going. I call it my spelunking," Blomquist said.
How does the association compile a collection that draws in hundreds every year?
The association has several collection boxes around town, and all year members collect, sort and store books at a warehouse by the airport.
Last year the book sale raised almost $25,000, which the association used to fund $12,000 in college scholarships for six women returning to college, $2,500 to furnish the new young adult reading area at the Walla Walla Public Library, $1,000 for the Books for Babes program, $600 to promote women's literacy for residents of the Walla Walla Farm Labor Camp, $1,500 to supply health education materials for students of Lincoln High School and numerous other community programs.
The book sale is also known for selling all children's books for 50 cents apiece, including hardbacks.
The third and final day of the AAUW Book Sale will take place today at the Marcus Whitman Hotel from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For information on applying for an AAUW scholarship or other programs, go online to aauw-wallawalla.org.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8325.