Volunteers at the Houston County Historical Society shown from left are Roger Johnson, Angela Murphy, Shirley Johnson and Janice Doering who pose with a few of the books to be sold at their upcoming book sale.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->SGH/Moorhead
Volunteers at the Houston County Historical Society shown from left are Roger Johnson, Angela Murphy, Shirley Johnson and Janice Doering who pose with a few of the books to be sold at their upcoming book sale.

SGH/Moorhead
"This is amazing, isn't it?" Shirley Johnson asked as she led the way to the endless stacks.

Johnson serves as president of the Houston County Historic Society. Next weekend, the group will hold its 18th annual used book sale in the lower level of the group's new museum building in Caledonia.

Tables held volumes on every imaginable topic - children's books, romance, westerns, gardening, sports, natural history, Americana, regional, poetry, literature, history...

"There's something of everything here," Johnson said. "Something for everybody."

Mark Twain sat across a table from Emily Bronte. Dr. Seuss held sway in the corner. Better rose bushes and the Blue Ridge Mountains awaited readers about a stone's throw away.

A few aisles down, Martha Stewart and Rachel Ray cozied up, offering recipes. From pots and pans to poetry, astronauts to zebras, Jane Austin to Thomas Aquinas, the long room offered used books of every stripe.

Not only books, either. There were videos, LP records, cassettes, CDs and DVDs, as well as stacks of magazines and more.

"Last year, we had between 10,000 and 12,000 books," Johnson said. "This year, we have even more."

The sale will be held at 104 History Lane (East Main Street entrance) by the Houston County Fairgrounds in Caledonia.

The event opens on Saturday, March 16, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and continues Sunday, March 17, from 1 to 4 p.m. On Sunday will be the $5 per bag sale and priced books (many of them new) will be reduced.

"We've raised over $50,000 over the years," Johnson said. "They're all donated books from members and friends of the society. It takes a while for something like this to kind of build up.

"The first few years we sold $400 to $600 worth of books each time. Last year, we raised between $6,000 and $7,000."

Paul and Joan Wiste are serving as this year's book sale managers. With all-volunteer help, they've managed to sort the massive amounts of materials.

"It involves hundreds of hours of volunteer time," Johnson noted.

"That's the best thing about this. It's all volunteer work. The book sale is our main fundraiser. The money that it generates benefits our archives and artifacts. We not only use it to buy supplies such as archival storage materials, but we'll be using it to outfit our new storage area for the archives. We're going to re-vamp the old museum space, turning it into a research center.

"People already use our museum for research. A lot of folks are into genealogy, family history, the history of this region. That's open to everybody.

"Last year, we had visitors from 30 states and seven foreign countries. There were 98 cities from Minnesota represented in our guest book, along with 48 Wisconsin and 24 Iowa cities.

"Last year, we also recorded over 5,000 hours of volunteer time."

And the new museum building?

"This has been quite a wonderful project," Johnson said. "We're all in anticipation as the building gets closer to completion. This summer, we'll be open with temporary displays. Later on, our permanent displays will be completed."

The museum addition wraps around existing historic buildings rather than pushing them out of the way. It is 212 feet long and boasts 10,620 square feet of space.

The space will include a gift shop and visitor welcome center, geologic, Native American and historic timeline of Houston County permanent display, another permanent display on the Palen Photo Studio, several rotating exhibit areas and hands-on activities and events.