In late September, Logos Books, a small second-hand bookstore on Second Street, was bustling again with the return of UC Davis students. A segment of a muffled telephone conversation floated over the shelves. “For example, real books,” whispered one student – partly excited, partly astonished – and leafed through a crisp paperback book priced at $ 4 on page one.
For readers who appreciate the randomness of the used bookstore, Logos is hard to beat in terms of choice or affordability. Despite the cramped space – more than five customers can feel like a crowd at the same time – the store is well sorted with fiction, classics, poetry, biography, history, children’s books and many other categories. Recent offerings include bestsellers from Kazuo Ishiguro, Jesmyn Ward, Min Jin Lee, and more. Only a handful of items are priced above $ 5.
What customers who drop books next to the checkout may not know is that at Logos, the books are only part of a sprawling operation run by the Friends of the Davis Public Library, a local nonprofit, and with Their purchase has effectively donated them to the local library.
For the past several decades, the Friends of the Library have supported the Mary L. Stevens Branch of Yolo County Library by raising funds to fund special programs, replenishing the library’s holdings, and purchasing equipment.
The group raised funds primarily through the sale of donated books. Until the pandemic, the friends held a weekend book sale in a room in the library every two months. All of the money raised – a dollar or two per book – went back to the library.
Last year, COVID-19 precautions suspended indoor sales for several months before finally switching them over. Since August 2020, the friends have been holding an open-air book sale in the library car park every Friday. The sale, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., features thousands of books organized by category on roughly half a dozen tables. Prices, usually a dollar or two, haven’t changed.
For years the pop-up book sale – first inside, now outside – was friends’ bread and butter. Then, in 2017, the nonprofit came to a crossroads. The former Logos owners Peter and Susan Linz retired. In order to pass the store on to a non-profit organization, they offered friends the opportunity to purchase logos and their inventory.
The board members of the Freundeskreis discussed the proposal. It seemed risky. If things didn’t go well, some feared that leasing the store could ruin their entire organization. “The idea of running a bookstore was big,” said Logos manager Phil Coleman, a former Davis police chief. “First of all, what do we know about retail?”
In February 2017, the friends took over the lease for Logos and reopened the shop as an extension of their fundraising campaigns. “We bought a whole bunch of bookcases, mixed things up, and opened the store with a grand piano and a prayer,” said Coleman. “We made money in the first month.”
It turned out that having free inventory and volunteer labor was a decent business model. After the money is set aside to pay the rent, almost all proceeds from Logos will go to the library. Volunteers run the shop, keep the shelves in stock and work four-hour shifts at the cash register. There’s even a group of women who do repair damaged books.
“The only person who makes money at Logos is the lady who comes to clean,” said Mabel Correa, a retired journalist and Logos expert on books in languages other than English.
The Corps of the Circle of Friends of a few dozen volunteers maintains a carefully orchestrated balance, receives boxes for donations, puts some books for sale on Fridays, and selects a smaller number to be sold at Logos. “There is dancing,” said Correa.
After a book has been donated – some given in bags, others thrown down a slide in the library – volunteers sort it into categories for display at one of the Friday sales. Occasionally a flashy book for the library or a specific shelf at Logos will be picked, but most donations that are in good condition are included in the weekly parking lot sale.
If sales close just after 3 p.m., Logos area experts – members of Friends with some knowledge of a particular area – will conduct a search of the remaining books and select the best ones to store their sections at Logos.
The books, which are not sold by Logos or in the library parking lot, are packed in boxes and removed by an organization called Better World Books, which sends them to prisons and reading programs and other countries. The organization pays the friends a nominal fee for the books.
At any given time, the friends may have hundreds of boxes of books, either waiting to be sold or shipped, stacked in the library’s storage rooms. “We have a fair amount of inventory,” said Rory Osborne, president of the Friends of the Library.
The group saw an increase in donations over the past year, partly due to pandemic quirks in their supply chain. The closure of many used bookstores that once competed with friends for used books has spurred book donors from across the region to seek the friends. “We have people who take special trips out of the Bay Area to donate books,” Coleman said.
It is not uncommon for the friends to receive large donations. “Sometimes a university professor dies and his widow calls and says, ‘We have a huge library. Come and take what you want, ‘”Correa said.
The fundraising model – collecting high quality donated books and selling them at low prices – has a twofold objective. It helps distribute old books to new readers while also making a few dollars to boost the library’s resources. “The purpose of the friends,” says the group’s website, “is to promote the library as a cultural center for the city of Davis.”
In total, the Friends bring in about $ 105,000 a year for the library, Osborne told The Enterprise. The money that supplements the county budget to fund the library is specifically earmarked for the Mary L. Stevens Davis branch, although some of it will be used for county-wide programs.
Recently, Friends of the Library grant has helped run children’s reading, science and arts programs, buy dolls for stories, buy a 3D printer, pay online subscriptions, sponsor annual events in June, choose from Freshen up children’s books and buy a popcorn machine – reportedly a “huge hit” on pre-pandemic movie nights.
“The Friends of the Library have been very generous in helping the Davis Library,” said Lana Harman, a local librarian and early education coordinator for the Mary L. Stevens branch.
The friends have suspended their weekly book sales for the next few weeks. They are scheduled to resume on January 28th. The group is always taking on new members and volunteers. For more information, visit davislibraryfriends.org.
– Reach Caleb Hampton at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @calebmhampton.