PILOT MOUNTAIN — In 2010 a trio of East Surry sophomores approached Charles Stone Memorial Library Branch Librarian Anna Nichols with the idea of turning a small downstairs storage area into a used book store for the surrounding community.
Saturday morning saw those students, now seniors, again visit the library, this time for the completed book store’s ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony.
That original vision of Lauren Smith was shared with her friends, Emily Chilton and Sarah Branch. The three then took on what turned out to be an imposing task, requiring hundreds of hours of their own volunteer effort and that of friends, relatives and others.
“They had come to us with this as an idea for their senior projects,” Nichols remembered after Saturday’s ceremony. “This space had been pretty much relegated to deep storage and it had already been in our thoughts to reclaim it for the public to enjoy. These young ladies had a vision of a used book store as an extension of the library, something ongoing that would impact our community. It was perfect.”
Initially the task at hand had proved daunting, as the small space was filled with stacked boxes of books, magazines and other overflow from the main storage area. A small aisle allowed limited access. The green walls and orange carpet had suffered water damage and were desperately in need of repair and replacement, respectively.
“At the beginning,” Emily Chilton recalled, “there was so much stuff, it was overwhelming. But we worked at it in stages and as it began to clear we saw that it could be made into a book store. There was less stress as we began to see progress and we were getting help from a lot of people. All of us had other things going on, but we were committed to this.”
Over a two-and-a-half-year period, each girl ended up logging more than 100 hours of time spent clearing, cleaning, stacking and sorting. Music and conversation would make the time pass quickly as friends would often drop by to share in the work.
“We went through each box looking for the best ones,” Smith noted. “We found books that we knew were special.
“Even up until this week,” she added with a smile, “I felt like I was in over my head. It was a lot of stress, but it was also a lot of fun. We knew we were doing something good.”
“It’s been a monumental task,” Branch said. “We’ve been working at this for a really long time and we’ve worked really hard. It took more than I thought it would and more than I think most people will realize.
“I’m glad this day is finally here,” she continued. “I’m really pleased. It’s even better than I thought it would be. The library now has a beautiful bookstore that everyone can enjoy.”
The shelves in the small area are now filled with top quality books, including many familiar titles by popular authors, each sorted by name and author for easy access. A reserve supply of books also has been sorted and stored for quick and easy restocking.
“It’s better than I’d hoped for,” Smith agreed. “This will be really good for the community and the library. The library can clean out to make room and make some money and the people in our community will be able to find some great used books.”
“We’ve pulled out the best,” Chilton said. “This is a small neighborhood used book store where people can find the treasures of others and make them their own.”
“We appreciate how these young ladies have worked so hard and so steadily at this,” Nichols noted. “It’s amazing what they have accomplished. We now have a fresh, warm and welcoming place where people can come in to relax and enjoy what’s there. It’s a wonderful opportunity for our community.
“They’ve driven this project,” she continued. “Now, they and we need other committed volunteers to operate the store and help to keep it open.”
Initial hours for the used book store will be on Mondays from 4 to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Hours will be expanded as volunteer help allows. Anyone interested in volunteering at the used book store may contact the library at 368-2370.
While their task has been completed, Branch, Chilton and Smith look forward to continuing to volunteer at the store as they are available. They are collecting votes on a name for the store, with the public invited to drop by and cast a ballot for their favorite. Suggested names are: The End, Twice Charmed, Happily Ever After, The Last Page and The Next Chapter.
“This is a relief,” Smith said, “and we’re excited this day is finally here. I’m proud to be able to see the completion of this vision that’s been in our heads for a long time.”