Library Friends recognized for holiday book sale

President of the Friends of the Austin Public Library Sue Grove and President of the Minnesota Association of Library Friends Mary Ann Bernat pose with awards Oct. 8. The Friends of the Austin Public Library won the 2015 Evy Nordley Award of Best Project during the annual Minnesota Library Association conference. Photo provided.

President of the Friends of the Austin Public Library Sue Grove and President of the Minnesota Association of Library Friends Mary Ann Bernat pose with awards Oct. 8. The Friends of the Austin Public Library won the 2015 Evy Nordley Award of Best Project during the annual Minnesota Library Association conference. Photo provided.

An Austin book group was recognized earlier this month for its efforts to bring new books back to Austin.

The Friends of the Austin Public Library won the 2015 Evy Nordley Award of Best Project during the annual Minnesota Library Association conference on Oct. 8 for its efforts to bring a holiday book sale to the Austin Public Library last year.

“To be affirmed by the state organization was even more special,” Friends President Sue Grove said, noting that winning the award was affirmation that the project was a benefit to the community.

Like many communities its size across the country, Austin lost its independent bookstore several years ago, leaving people without a store to buy new books.

Area book-lovers felt that loss, particularly during the holiday season. So last December, the Friends of the Austin Public Library partnered with a Barnes & Noble store in Rochester for the project, bringing new books to Austin to sell at face value at a sale during the Christmas season. Grove explained earlier that year, the Friends had made a partnership with staff at the Barnes & Noble store, allowing members to provide new books for sale at author presentations in the library and at the annual Austin Artworks Festival. After that proved successful, they created the holiday sale.

“We were ecstatic, because this project … we had no idea what the response would be at all, because nobody’s ever done anything like that before,” Grove said. “We were just thrilled.”

The members were excited because such a program would allow residents to once again buy new books in Austin while simultaneously drawing people into the library and boosting the public profile of the group. Barnes & Noble welcomed the opportunity to expand its reach in this market, knowing that not all readers in Austin are willing to make the 40-minute trek out to their Rochester store.

“I think the biggest thing was that people were so happy,” Grove said. “Everybody was just excited to be able to do some book shopping in Austin.”

Hoping to appeal to all ages, the members enlisted help to pick out the books, such as a retired kindergarten teacher who picked out an assortment of in-demand children’s books, which Grove said was a big help.

In total, the Friends spent about five hours in Barnes & Noble pulling together merchandise retailing at about $7,000 for resale. Grove said the sale raised about $1,250, but the purpose was not to make money but rather be a service project.

“They were just so taken that we looked for a need in the community and filled it,” Grove said of the judges. “So I think that’s why we won it.”

Inventory sold so quickly that Barnes & Noble representatives trucked additional books in from Rochester on the second and third days.

“I would guess we’ll exceed 10,000 that we buy this year,” she said.

At the end of the event, the Friends let Austin’s collection development librarians select books they wanted for circulation. Barnes & Noble accepted back whatever remained, meaning that the Friends lost no money on unsold items.

This year, there are wish lists in the Austin Public Library for people to write down what they would like to see at the sale. Grove said there’s no guarantee each wish-list book will be there, but it will help determine what is chosen this year.

“If there’s things people want we’ll certainly make an effort to get them,” she said.

This year’s sale returns from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Dec. 3, noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 4 and 10 a.m. to noon Dec. 5.

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