There's a little treasure hidden away in the bottom of the Southington Public Library that many, but not all residents have discovered.
It's called , a non-profit used book-selling group that has become an impressive operation, selling more than 35,000 books last year alone.
The group was able to donate $25,000 worth of proceeds to the library last year, along with a $10,000 donation converting of newspapers from microfiche to digital format.
Friends of the Library President Doris Larese said the success of the 15-year old bookstore has consistently hinged upon plentiful book donations and the hard work of 40 bookstore volunteers.
"People are very generous with donations, that's what makes it work for us because we don't have to go out looking for books," Larese said. "And by now we know what sells and doesn't sell, so we know what to keep. The rest we also donate."
Store patrons buy lots of fiction books, biographies and mysteries, said Larese, but the store has a diverse selection of all kinds of reads.
Anyone can pop in the store and find a wide variety of books costing anywhere between a quarter-typically for children's books-and usually one dollar per paperback, and two dollars per hard cover. But brand new, recently published books could cost up to $15, said Larese.
Depending on sales, the store sees a mix from 1,770 patrons seen last June, to 5,957 in May, during the half-off sale. Bookstore owners will even travel from places like New Hampshire during the annual sales to purchase large quantities of books for their own used bookstores.
Teri Delaney said she takes advantage of Friends to purchase lots of children's books and cookbooks rather than always having to worry about returning them every three weeks.
"I discovered the store three years ago, and I've been coming at least four times a year to stock up on kids books and some for me, too," Delaney said. "You can't beat paying a dollar for a book and they really have a good selection. I usually leave with bags full."
The Friends are able to make sizable donations to the library not only through sales but also monetary donations, membership fees and frequent donations made in honor of a residents recently passing away.
Open 29 hours per week, volunteers like 32-year teacher Claudia Hudson are retirees, said Larese, many of whom love books and want the socialization experience found in running the shop. The director of the children's room, Hudson said it takes a lot of work and effort to run the store, but it's worth it.
"I absolutely love volunteering there because I love children's books and we really do provide such quality at such affordable prices," Hudson said. "We started out as three shelves on the library main floor, so we've really grown in the ten years I've been here."
Together, the team has formed a very unique Friends group, unlike most all libraries across the state, said Larese.
"We're not a traditional friends group since most of them have officers that meet every month and think of ways to make money for the library," Larese said. "It's really become it's own thing."
When the group reorganized in 1988, they first started selling books in a corner of the main floor of the library. They soon outgrew the space and former director Jay Johnson created a new space on the lower level where it is today.
"I've been at it for fifteen years, and it's great," Larese said.
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