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Volunteer Spotlight: Friends Books

Posted on August 3, 2016


How it all Began

The nonprofit, Friends of San Rafael Public Library, receives 15 to 50 boxes of donated books daily! In 2009, this constant flow of donations lead to monthly book sales. Both Pam Dixon and Karen Nielsen, long time volunteers and supporters of the Library, realized that they could not keep up with donations just doing monthly sales events, yet they had a constant supply, good sales records and plenty of inventory … for a store!

They sketched out a business plan, gathered a team and searched for a downtown location. The shelves came from the old Walden Books at Northgate. Their spouses helped take them apart, transport and reconstruct them. The team that opened the store (and still volunteer) includes: Madeline Mork, who formerly ran the library at Davidson Middle School, she sorts the children’s books by ages and subject, plus she sets aside books for holidays and seasonal displays. Dorothy Victor, who sorts donations and works most lawn sales, opens the store every Saturday with her husband Andy. Cynthia Jackson leads the sorting crew and researches all the older books to determine their value.

Pam is “…proud of the team we built at the Friends and how we work together. The team work was truly miraculous! Once the store location was ours we opened in one month!” According to Karen, “The opening weekend was very exciting. We had an excellent turnout and made enough money in the first two days to cover our first month’s rent!”

Volunteers: Sorters, Heroes and Sellers

More than 30 volunteers are needed to keep the store open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm. The “sorters” have read the classics! Their knowledge enables them to make decisions while combing through boxes of new books five days a week at the Annex. They identify books to replace or augment the library’s collections, select books to set aside for the next sale or to be sold online and they identify possible rare books that are authenticated and sold at the annual Rare and Special Book Sale (the next sale is Nov. 5th). The “heroes”, mostly men, perform a critical service, moving the boxes of books between Friends Books on C Street and the Annex at the Library. The “sellers” like meeting new people who also love books. They provide customer service – answering questions or making suggestions about titles and authors and run the register at the store. Other volunteers help only at special sales events.

Why People Volunteer for Friends Books

They care about libraries and books. They see great things to read all the time, discuss books, learn from the research and have fun. Friendships develop and there is laughter when things go wrong. Yet at the end of the day they feel good knowing that their labors raised money for the San Rafael Library’s programs that serve their community.

If you are interested in volunteering at Friends Books please stop by the shop or leave a message for Karen or Pam at 415-453-3104. Friends Books, is a bookshop operated by the Friends of the San Rafael Public Library, a nonprofit 501(c) (3) corporation.

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