The community-supported Book Cellar helps residents build home libraries and supports library programs
Nine-year-old Carys Petty was an early reader at three years old. “I couldn’t believe how well she could read at such a young age,” recalls her mother, Leanne Petty. Petty and her husband, Dave, were eager to fan that flame that they saw lit in her. “We wanted to keep her surrounded by books so there was one for her to grab and read whenever she wanted,” says Petty. The Pettys turned to a community resource, The Book Cellar, to help build Carys’ reading library.
In 1999, a library volunteer proposed opening a bookstore in the basement of the John Barton Payne Building, which used to house the county’s library. “Up until this time the Friends of the Fauquier Library hosted an annual book sale,” says Maria Del Rosso, Director of the Fauquier County Public Library. “The proposal was approved by the library board and a bookstore opened for one day each month and from there, it just grew.”
The Book Cellar, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, is a program of the Friends of the Fauquier Library and helps support library reading programs. Run entirely by volunteers, The Book Cellar donates all sales, which can amount to as much as $30,000 annually, to the Friends of the Fauquier Library, .
Despite relying exclusively on donations, having books to sell has never been an issue. “The community has helped build, grow, and maintain The Book Cellar; it is a community-supported resource,” says Del Rosso.
“Every library in the county is a drop off location for used books. People also bring their own donations directly to The Book Cellar,” says volunteer Judy Hagerman, former Executive Director for the Fauquier SPCA. “I retired from the SPCA six years ago and found a void in my life. My mother was a librarian, so I was raised around books and developed a passion for them. Volunteering at The Book Cellar seemed like a logical opportunity.”
Hagerman helps recruit volunteers, who must be 18 years of age or older and commit to one 3 ½-hour shift each month. The Book Cellar is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., with a lot of behind-the-scenes work done during off hours. “We receive an average of 15 boxes of donated books every week. These are all sorted by category, added to our inventory, priced, and shelved by a prep team of five volunteers,” says Hagerman. The Book Cellar currently has 24 dedicated book-loving volunteers who donate their time to the store.
In the fall of 2017, the Friends decided that, after two decades, the store needed a makeover. Hoping to reduce inventory, the used book operation moved to a temporary location in Old Town Warrenton for an overstock sale. The twelve-week sale generated $13,000 for the library and cleared the way to restock The Book Cellar with all new items.
In January of this year, The Book Cellar reopened with a new approach to stocking and selling books. Each week, at least 500 to 600 books and other materials are added to the shelves. Anything not sold in six weeks is marked for a quick sale. The Friends added comfortable seating, more light, and colorful signage. Nowadays, there’s more room to display books, a feature that attracts readers and translates into more sales.
“We want people to know that this is a place for them to come spend time in. They are welcome to bring in their coffee, browse the books at their leisure, and stay awhile,” says Del Rosso.
“We worked to create a pricing strategy that would make the books very affordable,” says Del Rosso. The prices range from 50 cents for a paperback to a $1 for hardcover, with leeway for books known to be worth a little more. Gently used audio books, DVDs and CDs range from $1 – $2.
The Book Cellar helps to make sure that every household in the community can own a few books. For families with children who are voracious readers, like Carys, that’s a good thing. “We wanted to keep Carys stocked with books, and with The Book Cellar, we were able to build her a little library,” says Petty.
Every dollar that comes through The Book Cellar from the sale of a book comes back to the community through library programs such as the annual summer reading program, book clubs for adults, monthly Sunday with the Library events, STEAM, and OWLs (Older, Wiser Learners), to name but a few.
The Friends of the Fauquier Library is proud of the Book Cellar and the way it fills a tremendous need. Greg Mayer, Friends Board Member and a Book Cellar volunteer, says the store fills an important need in the county. “It helps encourage people to read by offering books at outstanding prices,” he says. Mayer has observed regulars both near and far that he has come to know during the nine years that he has been volunteering: “We have a couple who come from out of state to visit family and when they do, they make it a point to stop by The Book Cellar.”
For the Pettys, it doesn’t take long to see where the money they spent in The Book Cellar, has gone. As frequent library users, Carys can be found at a SPLAT (Science, Play, Language Arts, and Technology) program or attending one of the summer programs such as Drew Blue Shoes. All thanks to some old books that were read, loved, and donated rather than left to gather dust.
If you are downsizing, cleaning out or just want to declutter, consider donating to The Book Cellar. Donations are tax deductible.
The Book Cellar gladly accepts the following, in good, clean condition:
- Hardback and paperback books
- CDs, DVDs, books on CD and LPs
The Book Cellar cannot accept:
- Outdated books on computer science, medicine, or technology
- Condensed books, such as Reader’s Digest
- National Geographic books or Time Life series
- Encyclopedias and dictionaries
- Cassettes and VHS tapes
- Incomplete sets
Donations can be dropped off at the library or The Book Cellar during regular business hours. For large donations, please call 540-422-8500 ext. 5 to arrange a drop off time. The Book Cellar is located in the downstairs of the John Barton Payne building, 2 Courthouse Square, Warrenton and is open Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.