Chapter Two Books opens in Williamstown, with proceeds going to Milne Public Library

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WILLIAMSTOWN — The inventory was free. Most of the furnishings were free. The manpower is all volunteer.

Welcome to Chapter Two Books in Williamstown, where all of the profits go back into paying the rent and utilities — and to support the Milne Public Library.

It opened Saturday and Sunday to plenty of positive feedback. The store itself is smallish, with new-looking shelving holding used books donated by community members. And almost all the used books look like new.

"We've done it in record time," said Michael Sussman, president of the Friends of the Milne Public Library. "Many people spent a lot of time on this, but we split up the chores and got it done."

And according Susan Pike, store manager and a volunteer with the organization, "It was really great."

She said they drew families with youngsters, community members, visitors to town and a fair number of Williams College students.

"I had a senior say to me, `I wish you guys were here four years ago,'" Pike said.

"The opening went very smooth," Sussman said. "We had a nice cross section of both community members and visitors to town. It was a positive experience."

There is a wide variety of genres for sale, including cooking, psychology, general science, adventure, sports, politics and, of course, a large art section.

Pike said they sold about 500 books over the two days, and about 10 compact discs. She estimated that the store was stocked with roughly 5,000 items, with plenty more at the storage spaced in the Milne Library, waiting to hit the shelves.

They have all been donated since September.

And after a couple of months when things in the store have settled in, the group will organize an occasional pop-up sale in the Williamstown Elementary School to further bolster financial support for the library, Pike noted.

"Right now we're concentrating on getting settled in here for the next few months," she said. "We're feeling our way as our customers come through and communicate what they hope to see."

She said there have been a couple of dozen people volunteering their time to help furnish the store, organize the donations, stock the shelves, price the inventory, and volunteer to work in the store for several hours a time on any given day.

"This has truly been a team effort from set up to opening day," Pike said. "It's unbelievable that we were able to get done what was needed in six weeks. It took a small village."

The roughly 700-square-foot sales floor isn't very big, but seems suited for the concept.

"It's comfortable and accessible — intimate — a community space where folks can chat," Pike said.

Funds raised by the organization support children's programs, summer programming and staff development at the library, Pike said.

The bookstore came about when the group called an end to the annual book sale at the Williamstown Elementary School.

The logistics needed to conduct the annual sale made the event very difficult and labor intensive — inventorying and transporting more than 25,000 used books to the Williamstown Elementary School for the two-day sale, and then having to come up with a way to deal with the leftover books, typically around 8,000 volumes.

The book donation center at the library will remain open all year, hopefully providing the used book store with a steady stream of volumes to sell.

Sussman said a celebration of the opening will take place during the Holiday Walk on Spring Street scheduled for Dec. 2.

"This has really been a community effort," Sussman added. "The list of people who have contributed their time, books and money is very, very long."

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.

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