Planned Parenthood Book Sale.
Visitors browse through books for sale at the 49th annual Planned Parenthood Book Sale, which continues through Sept. 24. (Serena Guentz / Noozhawk photo)

From fantasy, science fiction and graphic novels to craft books, literature and religious or philosophical books, nearly any genre can be found at the Mary Jane McCord Planned Parenthood Book Sale in Santa Barbara.

The event kicked off its 49th year with its opening night on Thursday and the first full day on Friday.

The book sale, which began in 1974, is a volunteer-run fundraiser for Planned Parenthood California Central Coast — which includes health centers in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

Included in the sale are books of all genres, board games, puzzles, DVDs, CDs, vinyl records and more.

“We process about half a million books per year,” said Eliot Jacobson, co-chair of the Planned Parenthood Book Sale. “We sell them in a number of different ways — at this sale, we have about 150,000 books.”

Jacobson also said that about $500,000 is raised each year through the different ways donations are sold, such as the book sale and online at Amazon.

“Our best-selling category is probably children’s books,” Jacobson said. “We have such a wide variety of subjects here, too — pretty much anything you’re interested in, we have that category.”

This year also features a section for “banned books,” or books that have been barred from school districts or from being used in teaching, or otherwise censored for some reason.

Some examples of the banned books for sale include “The Giver” by Lois Lowry, “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury and “Wicked” by Gregory Maguire.

The annual Planned Parenthood Book Sale is run by volunteers, and Jacobson said there are about 175 full-time volunteers who work on the sale year-round, and about 250 volunteers throughout the year.

“There’s not a week we take off. We process books every week all year long,” said volunteer Mary Fox, who has been volunteering for the book sale full time for more than 10 years. “For me, it’s about community, health care and literacy. And what can I love more?”

The book sale is named after McCord, who volunteered for the Planned Parenthood Book Sale for more than 30 years. According to the sale’s website, McCord was considered to be “the heart and soul of the sale.”

McCord died in 2012 of colon cancer.

McCord’s daughter, Holly McCord-Duncan, told Noozhawk that she believes her mother’s experience working in Alabama when abortion was illegal — and seeing the repercussions of that — is what made her want to volunteer and advocate for Planned Parenthood.

“[Mary Jane McCord] worked in an emergency room in Alabama,” McCord-Duncan said. “She talked about how she saw women trapped by poverty, which involved many, many children, and sometimes husbands who were less than ideal. 

“I think that really galvanized her to believe that everyone should have the right to dignity, and that meant deciding whether or not you wanted children, because — as wonderful as children are — it can also be a trap. Her distinction was there are people who are pro-birth and there are people who are pro-life. There’s a distinction there.”

McCord-Duncan also said that her mother would get frustrated when people would think that Planned Parenthood is only for abortions, because its services “started way before that.”

McCord-Duncan said her mother would be proud of what the book sale is now and how it continues to grow.

Planned Parenthood Book Sale.
A section at the 49th annual Planned Parenthood Book Sale features banned books. (Serena Guentz / Noozhawk photo)

“I know she’s incredibly proud of all the volunteers here,” McCord-Duncan said. “She was so happy that the book sale would continue forever. It wasn’t all about her. It was about people who believed in the book sale.”

On Friday, the first public day of the sale, Jacobson said this year “is shaping up to be what looks like the most successful year ever.”

“The growth is phenomenal, and I think it’s a testament to our community that they believe not only in reading, but the idea that together we can make a difference,” McCord-Duncan said.

The Planned Parenthood Book Sale continues through Sept. 24 at the Earl Warren Exhibit Hall. More information on the sale and its hours are available on its website here.