When Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) buildings closed to the public last year due to COVID-19 public safety guidelines, Friends of the Library volunteers began thinking about how they could continue their popular sales of donated books and DVDs. Their answer: an online bookstore, wcls.org/friendsbooks.
“During COVID closures, we heard from many people who missed browsing our donated books and supporting the library with their purchases,” says June Hahn, president of Friends of the Lynden Library. “At the same time, Friends volunteers were looking for a safe and meaningful way to support the libraries.”
A core group of volunteers, representing Friends of the Everson, Ferndale and Lynden libraries as well as Whatcom County Library Foundation and WCLS staff, began meeting in summer 2020 to develop the idea of an online bookstore, which was initially conceived by WCLS Board of Trustees President Marvin Waschke.
“As I considered how to keep Friends groups engaged while our library buildings were closed, I knew the internet would be part of the solution,” says Waschke, who is a former senior principal software architect at a multi-national technology company. “An online bookstore was an immediate solution to the problem. Now that our branches are again open to the public, the site is also a forward-looking, convenient service that complements the Friends’ in-branch and seasonal book sales.”
With input from the planning team and seed money from the Whatcom County Library Foundation, a storefront on the online commerce platform Shopify was created by Christopher Waschke and volunteers began photographing books and entering descriptions into the Friends’ Shopify account. After months of testing, the online store is now open to the public at wcls.org/friendsbooks.
Shoppers can browse hundreds of donated books and DVDs priced between $1 and $5. New selections are added weekly. Because the online store is a cooperative effort among Friends groups, the selection may be broader than what shoppers will find at a Friends’ in-library bookstore. Shoppers may sort the online collection by genre, including fiction, children’s books, gardening, cookbooks, science fiction, young adult and more. Shoppers may also use the “Add Tip” feature to make a donation to the Friends groups. Revenue from the site will be allocated among participating Friends groups and used to fund library programs and services.
At check out, customers select a pickup date and location from a list of five WCLS branches. Currently, purchased items may be picked up at the Blaine, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden, North Fork or South Whatcom libraries.
Donated books are stored at the Friends of the Everson Library warehouse space provided by Peoples Bank in Everson. From this central hub, orders are distributed to the pickup locations on scheduled dates. Friends groups are not actively seeking donated books and audiovisual materials at this time. Community members who have questions about donating items should contact the branch manager at their library.
“We are grateful to our Friends for bringing this creative solution to life,” says WCLS Executive Director Christine Perkins. “Even during this challenging time, they found a way to support us. The online bookstore is a testament to their belief in the importance of library services.”
The volunteers will continue to evaluate the online bookstore – including how it complements the branch locations – and to recruit additional Friends of the Library groups to participate. They welcome shopper feedback.
“COVID certainly created a lot of challenges for our community, but at the library system, we chose to see the pandemic as a time to innovate,” Waschke adds. “We might never have tried creating an online bookstore before last year. We’re eager to see how it goes.”
About Whatcom County Library System and the Friends of the Library:
Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) connects people with information, ideas and community. WCLS circulates more than 2 million items annually through 10 branches, the bookmobile and a Library Express location on Northwest Drive. Residents have access to WCLS’s rich collection of books in print and digital formats, music and movies, online digital services, and inspiring events for every age. Experience “The Power of Sharing” by visiting in person or online at wcls.org. On March 1, 2021, WCLS reopened library buildings to the public with limited services and hours. Find the latest information at wcls.org/info.
WCLS is supported by county property taxes. However, Washington state law restricts how tax money can be spent. The system relies on Whatcom County Library Foundation and Friends of the Library to advocate for library services and to gather funds for special library projects that the WCLS budget doesn’t cover, such as a free book presented to every baby born in Whatcom County. Friends groups have also been critical to improving library facilities. Learn more and get involved at wcls.org/friends-of-the-library and wcls.org/library-foundation.
Media contact: Mary Vermillion, firstname.lastname@example.org, (360) 305-3645