Thursday, March 3, 2022 by Willow Higgins
The Austin Public Library system is the go-to for most Austin residents who want to rent books for free. But APL also has a lesser-known service for those who want to buy books at affordable prices: Recycled Readingsthe public library’s second-hand bookstore, sells, recycles, and reuses donated and discarded library materials for a few dollars or less.
Recycled Reads helps advance the city’s zero waste goal of diverting 90% of waste from landfills by 2040 by keeping old library materials out of the trash. When a local library or private citizen cleans up, the store accepts their donations of books, CDs, movies, artwork, and games. Although the collection is diverse, most of the material is aimed at children, making the resource especially useful for low-income families looking to buy books for their children and for teachers buying school supplies on a budget. . Staff also make arts and crafts, turning old books into vases or flowers.
Hannah Terrell, Head of Branch Services Division, present to the library board last week on how recycled readings have been handled over the past year.
In theory, proceeds from recycled readings benefit the PLA, Terrell explained. But this year the money the bookshop has made has gone mainly to renting out its storefront on Burnet Road – a lease it has just renewed for a further 48 months. In October 2021, the bookstore made over $14,000 in sales; in November of last year, he made less than $10,000; and in December, the store sold over $11,000. The money Recycled Reads makes doesn’t just come from in-store sales, but also from the sale of its giveaways. Goodwill of Central Texas is its largest partner. In October 2021, the bookstore brought over 16 tons of supplies to Goodwill.
Recycled Reads has also started piloting a new service – a tool library. Terrell explained that they used a grant to create a small library of tools in keeping with the sustainable and accessible mindset, “Why buy when I can borrow?”
“As opposed to just books, we’ve expanded things people can borrow for things that might be needed for one-time use,” Terrell said, like drills or other building materials. “We haven’t marketed it much, so there hasn’t been a lot of traction yet.”
Like many places, Recycled Reads has experienced staff shortages this year. Before Covid-19, the program had about 20 volunteers. Today, the store has four to five volunteers. The store makes do with three full-time employees and one part-time employee; they also recently hired a few people for temporary work to provide short-term relief.
In the coming year, the Recycled Readings team wants more Austinians to know about this helpful resource. Those who know the bookstore frequent it regularly, but many locals have never heard of it. Terrell wants to change strategy to help the store gain more foot traffic.
“My goal is to look at the cross-marketing of recycled readings…and to market what they do more intentionally to the Central Library, the Austin History Center, and (other library branches),” a- she declared.
The bookstore also hopes to accelerate its brand efforts. “People don’t know that Recycled Reads is part of the PLA. We want to make the APL connection more visible inside and outside the library.
Photo by Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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