Small bookstore donates big money
September 13, 2008 1:52 PM
Adjacent to roaring, car-laden 19th Avenue lies a chance for students to save some money on books.
Hidden away in the HSS building, the Friends of the Library’s Booksale Room provides a stark contrast to the noisy street nearby. Students can browse hundreds of books with only the white noise of pages flipping and fluorescent lights buzzing, amid the cheerful presence of volunteer Maurice Bassan, who addresses each customer personally.
The books are also wallet friendly – one dollar per paperback, two for hardbacks – and are better priced than most book stores, said staffers.
On this particular day, a man places a novel by Saul Bellow and a book on philosophy by Thomas Hobbes on a desk-sized table. Maurice Bassan charges the man for the books and places the money in a humble wooden cashbox.
“To copy that at Borders, it would be like $20,” said Bassan.
Students headed toward 19th Avenue may have noticed the Friends of the Library Booksale Room’s only advertising: a lone sign that stands in front of the entrance.
Considering the store’s modest room size and subtle advertising, the amount of money the store has raised for SF State’s library might be surprising. According to Suzanne Taylor, the office coordinator for Friends of the Library, the Booksale Room has raised over $300,000 since its founding in 1980.
The Friends of the J. Paul Leonard Library is the non-profit organization that owns the Booksale Room. Through donations and membership fees, the organization has pledged to provide the library with $250,000 for redevelopment. They are close to this goal partially because of sales at the store, Taylor said.
According to Patricia Werthimer, a volunteer at the Booksale Room, the library’s needs are paramount. In the past Werthimer was the chair of the store, and during her tenure the library’s necessities directed the Booksale Room’s donations. As of now, the library’s reconstruction constitutes the core of its needs, and in turn is where most of the store’s profits go, said Bassan.
While the Booksale Room provides SF State monetary support, it also gives the store’s customers and volunteers a sense of community.
Taylor said the store is more like a browsing stop than a traditional bookstore, and that customers have to hunt through carts and shelves of books to find something they like.
“We don’t have everything you want,” said Taylor. “But you will find that we have a lot of amazing things.”
The Booksale Room’s laid-back feel gives customers and volunteers a chance to chat about everything from books to politics. It is the store’s communal atmosphere that keeps many of the volunteers coming back to work day after day.
“[Customers] stop and talk and it makes you feel younger,” said Werthimer. “It’s just a very rewarding job for me.”
“Retirement means getting busy and really doing something with your life, and that’s something I’m doing,” said Bassan, a retired English teacher. “It’s my store when I’m in it. What English teacher doesn’t dream of having a book store of his own?”
The store’s books come from donations, which flood in at such a high volume that volunteers struggle to get them on the shelves. Bassan estimates that there are 50 boxes of books in his basement waiting to hit the shelves. Michael Hull, the current chair of the Booksale Room, said they’ve received up to 400 books in one donation.
“We are deeply appreciative of the donations we receive from the university community,” said Hull. Hull sometimes spends his Saturdays searching through garage sales for books to add to the store’s shelves.
After nearly 30 years without a real spot of its own, the Booksale Room will have a home in the library it has long supported.
The store will have a room in the redeveloped library, which is scheduled for completion in 2011, Taylor said.
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