Library Store Offers 'Gift-Quality' Bargains

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"Terry gets first dibs."

"When Terry's cleaning religion, we get a lot of religion."

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Jan Werle and Kathy Morgan, manager and assistant manager of the Library Friends Book Shop, look over recent arrivals. An average of 1,000 books are donated to the library each month.

Other than the fact that "Terry" is Payson Public Library Director Terry Morris, you wouldn't think of these lines being spoken within the hallowed walls of the town's pride and joy.

But these are the words of Jan Werle and Kathy Morgan, manager and assistant manager respectively of the Library Friends Book Shop, a unique little bookstore that occupies a couple of small rooms on your right when you enter the library.

What Werle and Morgan are explaining is how the book shop works in conjunction with the library.

"If (Terry) can put (a donated book) in the general circulation of the main library, it belongs to her," Werle said, expounding on the "first dibs" concept. "If she can't use it then it belongs to us."

While an average of 1,000 books is donated to the library each month, yet another source of books for the bookstore is the library collection itself.

"When the (library's) stacks are full, Terry looks and sees how many books have not been taken out over a certain period of time," Werle said. "She'll clean the stacks. So we recirculate for the library and we recirculate for the public."

The comment about Terry "cleaning religion" refers to the fact that Morris "cleans" the stacks one category at a time.

The books that make it to the bookstore are carefully scrutinized by volunteers to sort out those that might have a high value. If an internet search confirms their value, they are offered for sale on the internet at www.abebooks.com.

One book -- a first edition of one of Larry McMurtry's early books in excellent condition -- sold for $750.

"We get quite a few of the older books that are unique in value," Werle said.

The vast majority of the books -- those determined not to be of special value -- are priced and put on the bookstore's shelves.

"The most expensive fiction books are $4," Werle said. "Those are books (published in) 2000 and above (later) and in brand new shape, so they can be given as a gift. Anything published from 1995-2000 that is gift quality is $2. Everything else in the fiction area goes in the $1 category."

Non-fiction books are similarly priced.

The hardest books to price are those of specialized interest like coffee table books. The most difficult books to both price and sell are sets.

"Sets are the hardest thing for us to sell in the store because we have a clientele that's very limited in what they want to pay or can pay," Werle said.

Therefore a lot of sets, including multi-volume sets of the works of Kipling, Balzac and Twain, are offered for sale on the internet.

The most common category of books donated to the library is self-help books.

"There are so many self-help books that if everybody did what they said, we'd be the healthiest people on earth.

Once priced, the books are organized on the bookstore's shelves by fiction and non-fiction, with the latter further broken down into such categories as health, psychology, large print, history/politics, sports, science/nature, travel, biographies, gardening, cooking and more. The bookstore also carries magazines, and has a section of higher priced books called "Old & Dear."

The bookstore even maintains a "freebie" shelf -- a selection of free books that are displayed in the library lobby. Books that go on the free shelf are ones that are no longer "timely" -- a book on finances from the 1970s, an old text book, even a complete set of World Book encyclopedias published in 1963.

"They're things that don't have a chance to sell," Morgan said.

Books that espouse a particular ideology or religion are also placed on the free rack.

"They include books that are clearly proselytizing -- every Bible we get, the Book of Mormon, the Watchtower books," Werle said. "We don't want to give the impression of supporting one religion over another."

One thing the bookstore tries not to be is another thrift shop.

"We really don't want to be in competition with the thrift shops, which carry all kinds of books that may be in less than great condition," Werle said. "We try to keep books that could be gifts and that don't have a lot of damage."

Morgan agrees.

"If we sold books for a quarter or 50 cents, what's the point of these people putting in all these hours," she said.

Monthly sales and special features attract customers, and those 55 and over get a 25 percent discount on Mondays.

"This bookstore is unique in that it's modern," Werle said. "Our goal is to keep a circulating bookstore, not (one with) books that are going to lie on shelves for years."

The bookstore, which is open the same hours as the library, generates sales of $12,000-$14,000 a year, with all the proceeds going to support the library.

We're going to purchase a security system for the library that will cost $6,500 to $7,000," Werle said.

But just as important, Werle and Morgan believe, is the unique niche the bookstore fills at the library.

"A lot of times people will come in here and ask questions about books that they won't ask in the library because they feel those people are working and it's quiet," Werle said. "We do have a lot of conversations about books and their backgrounds."

Werle and Morgan give all the credit to their co-volunteers, a group of dedicated people who have something very important in common -- their love of books.

"These people handle customers with such courtesy and care and knowledge," Werle said. "Every volunteer is an avid reader and shares (his or her) love of reading with others. That's what makes it unique."

While some consider books stodgy and old-fashioned in this era of high technology, Werle, Morgan and their fellow Library Friends Book Shop volunteers, beg to differ.

"Books will never become obsolete," Werle said. "There is something personal about handling a book, while a computer is impersonal. And a book doesn't crash."

The library and bookstore, located at Rumsey Park off McLane Road, are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

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