By Stan Cutler
There will soon be a used bookstore at 84 Bethlehem Pike, just a long block from Germantown Avenue with plenty of free, street parking. The Friends of the Chestnut Hill Library are working with Bowman Properties to ready the space. It will be a not-for-profit enterprise to raise money for funding programs and improvements to our branch library. Importantly, it will save treasured books otherwise destined for the landfill.
We have not had a bookstore in the neighborhood since the Borders closed 11 years ago. The Friends and our partner, Bowman Properties, believe that the absence has deprived the community of a vital cultural resource. It is our intention to fill that void with a terrific shopping experience. The store will be an alternative to the sterility of Amazon and the box stores. It will be a special place that draws people who love to read and enjoy the pleasure of ink on paper, folks who want to own their books, to see them on shelves in their homes.
The store will occupy six rooms on the ground floor of a 19th century building near the Chestnut Hill East train station. We believe customers will enjoy hunting for special books in rooms with ten-foot ceilings, a black marble fireplace and walls of bookshelves. One room will be devoted to children’s books. It’s a corner property with a fringe of green outside dominated by a wisteria-draped pergola and enough space to accommodate a couple of tables for coffee sipping.
There’s much to be done before we open the doors, and we need your help. We expect you to donate the inventory. Please do not discard your books. Give them to us as an offering to your neighbors and as a means of contributing to an intellectually healthy community. Hold onto them until we announce the start of the donations drive, an event that we expect will take place late this summer. We’ll let you know when and where.
For now, we are calling it the “Friends Bookstore” — but maybe we can come up with a better name. Please go to chlibraryfriends.org/friends-bookstore and enter your idea. The winning entry, to be selected by the Friends of the Library Board, will be announced in September. The winner will choose five award books at the opening ceremony.
As you can imagine it takes a lot of people working together to launch and maintain a used bookstore. We have a location. And we have a committee of board members working to make the store a reality. But we need your help.
We anticipate recruiting an experienced bookstore manager to oversee the operation, but there is a great deal of work to be done by volunteers: planning, promoting, advertising, meeting with community organizations, collecting books donations, setting up an inventory database, sorting donated books, shelving books, creating or managing special collections, assisting customers with book selections, working as a cashier, greeting customers. And once open, we will need volunteers to work short shifts at the store.
If you want to be involved as an important part of this exciting, new Used Bookstore Project to serve the Northwest Philadelphia Community, please go to the website and let us know who you are and what you feel you can do to help.
The bookstore is a project of The Friends of the Chestnut Hill Library, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. But the enterprise is nonetheless a business and one that will require a significant investment. Help us pay startup costs with a tax-deductible contribution to The Friends or the Chestnut Hill Library. When you do, you will be helping our library branch, promoting literacy and improving Chestnut Hill’s quality of life.
The pandemic restrictions add a layer of complication that we are dealing with in compliance with decreed best practices. We believe the restrictions are temporary. Even so, it is our intention to open as soon as we can ensure a safe and healthy environment. With your help and patronage, the future quality of life in Chestnut Hill will be even better than the present.