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Susan Pike, left, Dr. Michael Sussman and Andrea Malone were part of the initial management team that developed Chapter Two Books. The secondhand bookstore was created to benefit the Milne Library but has also become a community hub.

Chapter Two Books in Williamstown a Place for Community

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Chapter Two Books opened in November on Spring Street. 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Chapter Two Books is much more than a perpetual used book sale benefiting the David and Joyce Milne Public Library — it's become an important community gathering space and service.
 
"It's a home for book lovers and there are a lot of book lovers in this town and people I think feel comfortable stopping in and browsing," Andrea Malone, a member of the initial management team, said. "They know when they buy a book here they help build up the library and I think people feel like they are part of that when they make a purchase."
 
The Friends of the Milne Library's annual book sale has long been a popular tradition and major fundraiser for the public library. But, last year, its future was uncertain.
 
"The Friends had a book sale greater than 20 years but the effort to put it on and the expense was such that we felt we could no longer continue it," said Dr. Michael Sussman, another management team member and president of the Friends. "We realized this and spent two to three months investigating various other ways to support the library."
 
The nonprofit Friends began brainstorming what could possibly replace one of the main financial engines that has provided the group with funds to support programming and other items at the library.
 
An old but very suitable idea came to mind: a secondhand book store.
 
"When you only have a sale once a year and you have all of these books you think maybe people would like to have better access," team member Susan Pike said. "So that idea sat there as something maybe for the future and then these factors came about and it was this idea that rose to the top."
 
So after several months of preparation, Chapter Two opened its doors on Spring Street in November and, although still faced with uncertainty, the management team was awestruck by the support the community offered. 
 
"We all had an idea but we didn't know what it would look exactly like. We didn't think everything would look so new," Pike said. "Everything in stock was donated from September so that is the quality you see today."
 
Sussman said he is hard pressed to find anything in the store the Friends have actually paid for.
 
"This has really become a community bookstore and that is illustrated in numerous ways," he said. "People have helped with their own sweat equity, time, donations, and the list is long. It is not the library's used book store but the community's."
 
With more than 6,000 sales already, the store seems to have caught on and the books donated find multiple leases on life.
 
"It is a very interesting cycle," Malone said. "People like to come in and see what is new on the shelves. It keeps the idea rolling in their mind and they think about what they want to read next."
 
Pike said visitors come in and often notice books they have donated and while they are there pick out a new one, which in many cases is donated back once read.
 
Malone added that the space has become a welcome area for neighbors to meet and parents to expose their children to the importance of reading. 
 
"Several times I have seen parents sit down with a child on their lap and just read," she said. "There is something about the community coming together through generations and sharing something in a shared space."
 
Malone said all the books are in great condition and she could not bring to mind a genre they didn't have. She said the quality and variety of books that come out of the community never ceases to amaze her. 
 
"The quality of the books and the quality of the condition of the book," she said. "We had such an overwhelming outpouring from the community. What you are seeing here is only what we could fit between these four walls."
 
Pike said the only books in the store that are not secondhand are those donated by Storey Publishing. The local publisher had some overstock books it gifted to the store, which are being sold at marked-down prices.
 
The three members of the initial management team are also Friends of the Library and they hope to diversify in the future and not only have Friends but community members willing to share their talents.
 
Sussman added that books can be donated at the library and there will be spot book sales at the library that will also support programming, professional development for the librarians, and special projects. 
 
Pike said she thinks Chapter Two has accomplished its goal and then some. 
 
"We can continue to support the library but many more of these donated books will actually get in the hands of community members and visitors of the area," she said. "We feel very blessed right now to be in a very good place."

Tags: book store,   books,   spring street,   

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