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Evy Nordley Candidate Profile #8: Grand Rapids Area Friends of the Library

grandrapids.pngUsed book sales remain, hands down, the most popular and most visible type of Friends fundraiser. However, there’s plenty of room for experimentation with this tried-and-true favorite, as the Friends of the Grand Rapids Area Library can attest.

In November 2018, they held their first-ever pop up sale. The reasoning behind this move is both simple and profound.

Over the past decade, reading habits have changed for a significant slice of bibliophiles. In this era of e-readers, trekking to the library or book store is no requirement – you can find materials from the comfort of your couch. With grassroots initiatives like Little Free Libraries, physical books and serendipitous discovery are attainable close to home, as well.

Pop up sales, held in a nontraditional (read “non-library) location, seemed like a logical enough extension on the trend.

Organizers faced two questions at the onset: when, and where? The Friends ultimately landed on the first Saturday of November, because the date coincided with Itasca County’s deer hunting opener. Unsurprisingly, Grand Rapids sees steady visitor traffic that weekend. Moreover, the town typically hosts many small bake and craft sales that week, and a pop-up book boutique fit nicely with the tradition.

November also allowed The Friends to brand this inaugural pop-up event as a holiday kickoff, of sorts. The Friends stockpiled Christmas books all year long, ending up with 20 boxes chalk-full of seasonal cookbooks, children’s books, and craft manuals. Materials representing nearly all other genres rounded out the offerings nicely.

As advertised, the pop-up Holiday Book Boutique was there and gone in a flash. The short-term nature of the event added to the appeal; proceeds surpassed $1,200.

ttree2.jpgNot content to rest on their laurels, The Friends began planning for a follow-up as soon as the holiday season came to a close. Scheduled for May 2019, this second pop-up event was Earth Day themed. (After all, what is a used book sale, if not recycling in action?)

For this spring reprisal, The Friends worked with the City to rent the historic Old Central School in Grant Rapids’ downtown district. They received the short-term use free of any charge.

This second sale ran a scant three hours: from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Even in that short window, The Friends pulled in an impressive $800.

Secondary benefits from the pop-up format are no less noteworthy, shared Friends president Mary Jo Wimmer. “The one-day, pop-up nature of this sale seemed less overwhelming to volunteers.” For that reason, The Friends’ call to action attracted an entirely new pool of helpers. These included students from a local parochial school, who provided valued set-up assistance.

Wimmer is confident that some of these new volunteers will reappear. “Many viewed the pop-ups more as a community service, than a sale, because the prices are all kept so affordable… We think that’s exactly the right mindset.”