Friends Foundation of Birmingham Public Library hosts book fair during Hi-Wire Brewing on March 7, Spring Booksale at Central Library on April 4 and 6

This Thursday, March 7, from 5 to 8 p.m., Hi-Wire Brewing at 2901 4th Avenue South will host the Friends Foundation Book Fair. Stop by after work and get your reading list together while taking advantage of Hi-Wire Brewing’s Benefit Pint Night! $1 from every purchase of Taps #5-8 (Double Hi-Pitch, Pink Lemonade Sour, Mountain Water and Leisure Time Lager) is contributed to the Friends Foundation to help support the programs and services of the Birmingham Public Library.

Also, the Friends Bookstore Spring Book Sale will be held at the Central Library in downtown Birmingham, 2100 Park Place, Thursday through Saturday, April 4-6.. See the times on the flyer above.

BPL Friends bookstore in the central library downtown.

“Once a librarian, always a librarian,” said Sandi Lee, president of the Friends Foundation of the Birmingham Public Library. “It’s hard to get that out of your blood.”

For 25 years, she was a librarian at the Birmingham Public Library, where she often worked closely with the Friends Bookstore, a used bookstore within the library. A year after her retirement, she was bitten by the library bug again. She offered her expertise to the Friends Bookstore, which is both a valuable source of books, audiobooks, CDs and DVDs for Birmingham readers, and a fundraiser for the Birmingham Public Library.

“You come in and you’ll find something different every time,” says Lee. Fiction used to be Friends Bookstore’s best-selling books, but Lee says it has been surpassed by history and biography. Since Birmingham has long been a center of history, including the civil rights movement, industrial progress, and more recent urban renewal and growth, this is not surprising.

As a nonprofit organization, the Friends Bookstore aims to provide Birmingham residents with a place to learn about and serve their city. Volunteering The Friends Bookstore is staffed entirely by volunteers, many of whom are retired professionals: retired librarians, lawyers, nurses and IT technicians.

“The volunteers we currently have are ‘book people’ but ‘people people,’” Lee says. “They like to come in and interact with people.”

Volunteers and readers can build community together based on their shared love of reading. For example, one volunteer, a retired nurse, heard that a regular customer was pursuing medical training. Fortunately, the Friends Bookstore was able to help.

“The day before yesterday we had a gentleman at St. Vincent’s whose colleague had passed away, and he was tasked with throwing away his medical books. Some were still in the shrink wrap.”

In addition to helping the client find medical textbooks at an affordable price, the volunteer was also able to provide mentorship and support. According to Lee, these relationships are one of the many benefits of volunteering at the Friends Bookstore.

“People bring their specialty with them when they come to volunteer, and they can really share that.”

Donate In addition to books and other materials discarded by the library, the Friends Bookstore also accepts donations from community members.

“People can’t throw away books,” Lee says.

Even if donated books are not sold in the Friends Bookstore, they do not go to waste. The Friends Bookstore finds them a home elsewhere. When the main library’s books are lost or stolen, the Friends Bookstore helps fill the gaps.

“Often people take it upon themselves to rid the library of things they don’t like,” Lee notes. As book bans increase in the South, the Birmingham Library hopes to champion free speech and oppose censorship, a goal the Friends Bookstore is helping to achieve.

In addition to the library itself, the Friends Bookstore has many other channels that it uses to deliver books to Birmingham. Community Outreach One of the main goals of the Friends Bookstore is to support library activities in the community.

Lee says, “We get a lot of children’s books and we have a relationship with Better Basics.”

Better Basics is a nonprofit organization committed to advancing literacy in Central Alabama and closing the education gap for children from low-income households. The Friends Bookstore is one of the sources Better Basics uses to get books into the hands of children.

Older readers also owe their books to the Friends Bookstore. “We’ve had relationships with nursing homes and different residential facilities,” Lee said.

In addition, the Friends Bookstore partners with Books to Prisons, a nonprofit organization that sends free books to incarcerated individuals in Alabama and Texas.

Opening hours and location of the Friends bookstore

The Friends Bookstore is located on the first floor of the Birmingham Public Library in downtown. It is open to customers Monday to Friday from 10am to 2pm and the first Saturday of every month from 11am to 3pm

Before COVID, the hours were extended, but once more volunteers come forward, the Friends Bookstore hopes to expand their hours again.

The Friends Bookstore is currently looking for volunteers. The shifts are usually four hours or less, and they are always willing to work around their volunteers’ schedules.

To donate or volunteer, call 205-226-3676 or email friendsbookstore@cobpl.org. All donors receive a donation receipt, with which they can claim tax deductions.

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