At least 100 people lined up to get first pick at the more than 60,000 used books, records and tapes piled high on folding tables inside.
Bookworms and book dealers carrying bags and pushing carts navigated the narrow aisles, bumping bodies and book-stacked arms, some picking books faster than ripe fruit. The room's quiet murmur only was broken by the occasional sounds of hardback books thudding and slapping the concrete floors.
"Nora Roberts?" a woman called from one section to her mother, who was intently skimming titles a few tables away.
Sue Younker, clutching a sheet of paper scribbled with book titles, acknowledged, "I love Nora Roberts."
The 67-year-old Falling Waters, W.Va., woman then listed Catherine Anderson, Caroline Davidson, Linda Howard and Luanne Rice as her other favorites, pointing to her sheet of paper.
"Sometimes we spend $100," Younker said, adding that she buys for herself and for members of her family.
Robin Turner, a book dealer from Frederick, Md., already had picked up two price guide books, one on antiques and collectibles and another on die-cast vehicles, minutes into the sale.
Turner said she wasn't looking for any particular genre, but has, over the years, been able to determine what sells best.
Judy Chaney and Sheri Specht, co-presidents of the Hagerstown chapter of the AAUW, said more books were donated this year than in years past, probably due to the county's growing population. Donations come from residents and local libraries, they said.
High school students performing community service hours helped put out the books, they said.
Boonsboro Fire Department members and Maryland Correctional Training Center inmates helped move the books to the Agricultural Education Center from the Washington County Free Library, where they are compiled and priced throughout the year.
"It's the best recycling project in Washington County," Specht said.
If you go
What: American Association of University Women's annual Used Book Sale
When: Today and Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 3 p.m.
Where: Washington County Agricultural Education Center, Md. 65 south of Hagerstown
Books will be sold at half-price on Saturday. On Sunday, bags of books will be sold for $4 each.