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Friends group opens bookshop in Lawrence Public Library


When it comes to daydreams of exclusivity, I’m sure some people’s thoughts turn to pompadours and membership at the Mar-a-Lago club. But for me, I just aspire to go to the member’s night of the Friends of the Lawrence Public Library Book Sale. Come to find out, I don’t even have to wait until then. The Friends group has recently opened a used bookstore inside the Lawrence Public Library.

In the basement of the library at Seventh and Vermont streets, there’s a relatively new venture called DownHall Books. It is about 35 feet of book shelves just down the hall from the elevator that leads to the basement. There, you will find approximately 500 titles, including a mix of fiction, nonfiction, children’s books and both hardcover and paperbacks.

Books are on display at DownHall Books in the basement level of the Lawrence Public Library. The mini-store is near the library's business center.

Books are on display at DownHall Books in the basement level of the Lawrence Public Library. The mini-store is near the library's business center. by Chad Lawhorn

What you won’t find is a store clerk. Instead, there is just a sign listing the prices. You put your money in a lockbox on the shelf. Exact change is recommended because you can argue all you want with the box, but it won’t give you change back. There is, however, a change machine just down the hall from the bookshelves.

You likely won’t need a lot of change. DownHall uses a pricing system similar to what you find at the annual used book sale: $2 for a hardcover, $1 for paperbacks, DVDs and CDs. Children’s books are sold for half those prices.

The store, which quietly got started in the spring, came about because several members were concerned that, despite the annual book sales, the Friends group still was recycling a lot of quality books. One of DownHall’s goals is to reduce the number of donated books that are going to the recycling pile, according to the organization.

As for the type of books on the shelves, the inventory changes frequently, Celia Heintz, coordinator of DownHall told me via email.

“It is a treasure hunt,” she said. “One day you might find the travel book of your dreams. The next day there might be a book by George Will on baseball or the latest Dan Brown mystery.” (It is titled "The George Will Code: What do these big words mean?")

On the particular day that I was there, I noted fiction titles by Janet Evanovich, Michael Connelly, Tony Hillerman, Danielle Steel and others. There were nonfiction titles too, including a George Will baseball book, and something called the "Idiots Guide to Getting Your Romance Published." There was even the Kansas City Steak Company’s "Grilling and Barbecue Guide," and then just a couple of books down, the provocative "The Art of Veterinary Practice." I really hope those aren’t bought by the same buyer.

Because the store has no clerk, it has no real hours either. It is simply open anytime the library is open. Money raised at the store will benefit the Friends of the Public Library, which in turn uses the money to support the Lawrence Public Library. Overall, the Friends group raises a significant amount through its three, large, annual book sales, which will continue to be held. Last year, the group generated nearly $145,000 in income from the sales and other fundraising activities, according to the group’s annual report.


Marilyn Hull 7 months, 1 week ago

This is a great idea that motivates me to donate more books.

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