Library's new store offers more space

Posted: Tuesday, July 18, 2000

Wherever they go, their customers will find them.

After their most recent move, volunteers at the Friends of the Juneau Public Library Amazing Bookstore are sure of this.

``We have very loyal customers. We wondered about moving,'' said Donna Denton, volunteer coordinator for Friends. ``But one of them said, `You could move out in the middle of a cow pasture and we'd find you.'''

They didn't have to go quite that far. The store, in the Mendenhall Mall since it opened in 1989, recently moved into the Airport Shopping Center.

At about 2,200 square feet, the new store is the nonprofit's largest space yet. The previous location, near the Mendenhall Library, was a little more than half that. Still, it raised almost $40,000 a year for local libraries.

``This is the eighth place we've been,'' Denton said. ``We've outgrown all of them. Where we are now is so big, I think we'll stay here for awhile.''

Staying put will be a change for the bookstore. Even prior to its official opening, annual book sales were held in locations ranging from the library conference room to hallways and unoccupied stores.

Those sales sparked the idea for the bookstore.

``It was once a year for a weekend, then twice a year for a week. It's just grown,'' Denton said.

Originally, the bookstore helped the library siphon off unwanted books.

``But then the public got into the act,'' Denton said. ``They bring us wonderful books.''

They bring them at impressive rates, as well. Denton estimated the store now has up to 20,000 books; donations range from out-of-print Alaskana to boxes of Harlequin romances. Suspense writers John Grisham and Tom Clancy appear in the store with the most frequency.

``They must sell like crazy,'' Denton said. ``You just wonder how many of their books are in print.''

Most books are priced at 25 cents. ``If they're paperbacks, brand new, pristine condition, uncracked backs -- then they're a dollar.''

There are a few exceptions. A 1922 book on golfing sold for $125 -- the highest price yet.

Funds raised by the Amazing Bookstore go to library expenses, often items or programs that would not otherwise be offered, said Carol McCabe, library director.

Most recently, Friends raised money for kids' steps at the Valley and Juneau circulation desks. Children can stand in the raised indented areas, which allow them to observe the book checkout process.

Money raised also pays for new computers and other technology, and supports summer reading programs for children. Other funds cover reupholstering furniture and adding lighting.

``We try to give the library $38,000 a year,'' Denton said.

The efforts benefit from the bookstore's customers. A 1999 count indicated more than 4,000 people a month came into the store.

``They read their books carefully and bring them back and we sell them again,'' Denton said.

John Ross has been coming to the bookstore since it opened and the latest move didn't faze him.

``I thought it made good sense,'' Ross said. ``It sounds like they were growing and they got more space to sort things out.''

Sixty-five volunteers ranging in age from their 20s to their 80s work in the store, clerking, sorting books and handling other jobs. Many of them have been there since the store opened.

Doors at the new location opened Saturday, after a closure of two weeks.

``On their opening day, they had 40 people in just in the morning,'' McCabe said. ``People couldn't wait to get back in.''

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