Some things seem uniquely Socorro; Thrift store dime days, for instance. Socorroans love a bargain but not just any bargain: It has to be a good deal. The monthly book sales offered by the Friends of Socorro Public Library have become a recipe for success in that uniquely Socorro manner.
Held the second Saturday of most months, the September sale netted $303, according to Julie Johnson, president of the Friends of the Library. At 50 cents to $1 a book, that translates into a lot of books.
After a sale, there may be more space on some of the shelves or at least fewer books in boxes but there still are plenty of books. The city gives the Friends space across the street from the library in the old middle school complex. There, books are sorted and housed between sales.
“We’re lucky to have this place,” said Johnson, as it provides a rent-free, dry and safe place for the books.
For some, it’s a monthly Saturday event.
“We have regulars that come, bring their own box,” said Pat Mills, Friends vice-president. “You see some of the same faces.”
Some of those same regulars also volunteer to help. There is plenty of work before and after as well as during the sale. Volunteers come Friday to put up tables in the hallway on which boxes and boxes of books are displayed, books that don’t fit on the shelves that crowd the north-west corner room of the building.
Boxes of books line the sidewalk leading up to the door as well, with some specialty books and books marked down to a quarter.
And, of course, after the four-hour sale all the remaining boxes of books must be returned to the north-west corner room.
“One of the good things about the Friends,” Johnson joked. “Is officers have term limits.”
To prevent burn out, officers are elected yearly, although they kid that they just rotate the jobs.
“It’s a frantic organization,” Johnson said. “If you’re not setting up or tearing down, you’re sorting.”
There also are the newsletters, membership drives and making sure the non-profit organization’s financial details are complete. These can be detailed and exacting, but Johnson dismisses the challenges, saying, “I used to be a programmer so I can keep those things on a back burner, and start early” to ensure compliance.
And while physically there’s a lot of work, it is for a good cause. The funds raised go toward children’s programs, including the annual Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), which gives out free books; the summer reading program which offers special activities and achievement prizes; a Christmas concert and community outreach programs.
Sales are held most months but the group takes a break during the hottest and coldest months. “I think a community needs a place like here,” said Johnson, sitting in the book storage room on Friday after set-up was completed. “Sure you can go on Amazon” to get books, notes Johnson. But they can’t compete with Socorro prices. “And when people get done reading the book they bring them back and we sell them again.”
Everything from music books to philosophy; fiction and biographical, cookbooks, language books, “how to” books of all kinds can be found.
Enthusiastic volunteer Brian Borchers sorts through the scientific books to separate outdated contributions from those that remain viable, said Mills. Other volunteers include Allan Sauter, treasurer; Peg Hardman, Penny Lommen, Susan Miller, Kathy Spring, Allan Stavely. The indomitable Dorothy Brook is there, as well. “She deserves special accolades,” said Johnson, to Brook’s demure grumbling.
Organizational efforts have improved the ease of browsing. There’s even a map detailing where each section is located. A small table shows off books signed by the author. “One time,” remembers Johnson, a woman was thumbing through some old books and found “what looked like a book signed by Mark Twain. We looked it up on a computer and indeed it looked like his signature.”
Another time, recalled Mills, a woman found a few hundred dollars stuffed inside a book she had just bought. She generously donated that money to the Friends.
The Socorro Public Library was founded in 1924 by the WAAIME (Women’s Auxiliary to the American Institute of Mining Engineers). The first library was a room in the fire station. By 1931 it moved to the H.R. Vigil building, according to an event summary that is part of the library file, shared by current Librarian Chelsea Lyons. Then in 1932, the Baptist Church on Park Street was bought. The now historic building has been enlarged and renovated but remains a vital community resource.
It’s not clear just when the Friends group founded but some think it was the same group that first started the library, as a way for patrons to remain involved after it was handed over to the city in 1966.
Libraries have changed and evolved over the years and doubtless the Friends’ groups have as well. But the focus really hasn’t changed: To encourage the love of reading throughout a person’s life. The Friends of the Socorro Public Library remains a vital part of Socorro’s reading community providing funding for youth programs and an affordable, fun way to acquire and read a variety of books.
In the end, “the real goal is to get books to the readers,” say Johnson and Mills.
Readers are invited to join the service group. For more information about the Friends of the Library, visit the library on Park Street or online, adobelibrary.org or on the Friends of Socorro Library Facebook page.