Year-round used-book store opens at Mt. Lebanon library

The Book Cellar will save time and manpower of storage

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The "glogg" was largely ignored, but everything else was pretty popular at the grand opening of Mt. Lebanon Public Library's used-book store.

Although few drank the glogg -- a nonalcoholic version of a Swedish beverage resembling mulled wine -- crowds of patrons snacked on cookies and other drinks last Thursday while viewing the bright displays of new, holiday-themed books.

"We've wanted to do this for many years," said Cynthia Richey, library director. "I think my friends and I talked about a permanent used-book shop ... in 1995-96, and this is finally becoming a reality."

More than 100,000 volumes are donated to the library each year, she said. They were sold at semi-annual used-book sales, which last year generated $60,000. But the time and manpower of storing the books off-site and setting up temporary shelving became problematic.

So, The Book Cellar, a permanent used-book store, was created in several rooms downstairs from the main library, through the efforts of Friends of the Library volunteers to staff it.

"It's a growing trend in some states, and in some places, like New York and California, they've had used-book shops like this for a long time," Mrs. Richey said.

With the exception of Mrs. Richey, the entire project was developed by volunteers, "which is a real tribute to the community we live in, that they would care so much," she said.

Volunteers Petra Fey, Mimi Ingalls, Pat Carr and Jennifer McDowell worked as a team to design The Book Cellar.

"I'm a little partial to book stores," said Mrs. Fey, who opened and ran one in her native Germany. She also has operated a book store for a chain.

The group originally looked at space on Washington Road but realized a not-for-profit bookstore would have a tough time paying the rent.

Space in the library seemed a better fit, she said.

In addition to display space in two long hallways, the store has two rooms: one with lower shelves and tiny chairs for children and the main area with a faux fireplace and armchairs.

The main area has a warm, den-like feel, with two walls lined with books and sparkling inexpensive chandeliers overhead.

"I got them at IKEA," Mrs. Fey said with a laugh. "We Europeans always go there."

Most of the used books appeared to be in excellent condition, with price tags ranging from 25 cents for children's books to $5. New books weren't priced much higher.

Some of the bargains at the opening last Thursday evening included Harry Potter books for $3.50 to $5, Sue Grafton mysteries for under $5 and a new set of George Winston piano CDs for $10.

The store will sell books, CDs and DVDs and VHS tapes in good condition as well as literary-inspired items, such as action figures and notecards. Donations can be left in the red bins just inside the ground-floor entrance to the library.

"We hope to find space to have coffee and little treats, as well," Mrs. Richey said.

More unusual and rare items will be sold through the Friends of the Library's eBay auction, which can be accessed through the library's Web page at www.mtlebanonlibrary.org.

The name for the store was chosen from among 250 entries, with the winning name submitted independently by two residents, Tripp Barrie and Linda Hunter Goslin.

The store will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. until Christmas and then it will close for a week. After it reopens Jan. 2, it probably will be operate for five hours a day. Those who would like to volunteer are asked to leave their name and phone number at the library circulation desk or send an e-mail to booksale@mtlebanonlibrary.org.

"We are planning a special for January and February: grab bags, something like 20 videos for $2.50," Mrs. Fey said.

The Book Cellar also wants to display free books at Mt. Lebanon's independent coffee shops, she said.

"It's a sign that we're there, that we want to be a part of the community."


Maria Sciullo can be reached at msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-851-1867.


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