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Working the books

Isaac Brambila
ibrambila@tahoedailytribune.com
Brianna Murillo cleans a window at The Bookworks Wednesday while she volunteers at the store with SOS Outreach. The Bookworks is a non-profit store that works with the South Lake Tahoe Family Resource Center.
Isaac Brambila/Tahoe Daily Tribune |

The volunteers, most of them children with the SOS Outreach program, scattered around The Bookworks bookstore as if participating in a scavenger hunt. Next to the checkout desk, at the entrance and in boxes around the store were the objects of their assignment, scores of donated books that needed to be organized and shelved according to genre.

The incoming books were to be added to a collection of books about 10,000 used books, all to be sold for the benefit of community programs, namely the South Lake Tahoe Family Resource Center, De Anne Hooper, Executive Director of the SLTFRC, said.

The store looked like a maze with shelves of books of all genres stocked nearly to the ceiling.

The work the children and the other volunteers did Wednesday was part of a 100-percent volunteer driven effort to recycle books and raise funds for the community programs. The store operates on all donated material and all volunteers running the day-to-day operations.

The bookstore collects its books mostly from barrels placed at the post offices. However, it also receives larger one-time donations. The books are, for the most part, placed for sale at significantly reduced prices, with the exception of new, rare or more popular books. A great portion of the books sell for $2.50, or $6 for three books. Some books that have been at the store for an extended amount of time are currently being sold in bundles of 25 for $5.

After switching location about a year ago to a bigger place just a few feet down the hall within the Lakeview Plaza, new expenses have drastically reduced the store’s profit margins, Hooper said.

Coupled with the new expenses was a reduction in customers, some which has to do with a lack of exposure.

“That’s something that people didn’t know about. Some people didn’t even know that The Bookworks was even here,” she said. “We’re trying to brand it and align it with the family resource center so that people know that we’re here and that the sales from the book go back to the community.”

Exposure and location, however, are not the store’s only problems. Much like most of the local economy, the store has suffered as a result of a lower influx of winter sports enthusiasts this year.

“Often times, in the winter time we get people. But there just haven’t been the crowds,” Hooper said. “We’ve made some changes. I was hoping this winter would be good. Now I’m just hoping this summer will be good.”

In her experience, the summer months represent better sales for the store. Many people who like to go on hikes or spend time at the beach like to have something to read with them. Often, customers who know about the store come in to buy books and leave a few more behind.

Still, the funds raised are not the only value the store brings to the community, Hooper said. “I want to make it, not only a resource for books, but also a resource for folks to learn new skills,” she added.

The store helps the SOS Outreach members meet volunteering requirements and is working with the Achieving Independent Milestones (AIM) program, which works with disabled adults, to provide others volunteer experience.

“They’re looking to somehow get a job maybe sometime in the future, and they need a skillset. This is a really easy retail place for them to work. It’s low stress … and a place for them to learn,” she said. The store promotes reading for children, as well as recycling, Hooper said. “These kids are given a chance to, I don’t know, get excited about books.”

Near the end of the volunteer session, one of the volunteers, a young boy with fair skin and long blond hair down his back and past his shoulders approached Hooper.

“Can I have this one?” the boy asked as he showed Hooper a book. “Of course. You can have that one,” Hooper said. She then yelled out to the volunteer who was at the register.

“Everyone who volunteered gets a free book.”

The Bookworks is located at 3330 Lake Tahoe Boulevard and opens Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. For information on volunteering call 542-0740.


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