By Sarah Kuper
The bookstore on the lower level of the Homewood Library is home to hundreds of used books, movies and magazines.
Most cost one dollar or less.
The store is almost completely staffed by volunteer members of Friends of the Library – a group of individuals who believe in the importance of a quality local library.
Sue Thomas says she is spending her retirement volunteering at the bookstore because it supports the programs in Homewood and because she’s always loved libraries.
“I’ve always wanted to work at a library. I’ve always been interested in books and we love them down here,” she said.
Thomas retired from her position as a financial secretary at a local church in 2003.
She began helping at the Friends’ bookstore in 2004.
She spends Wednesday and Friday afternoons at the store helping other volunteers sort donations and she helps customers with what they might need.
Thomas said she enjoys seeing the regulars who come in and share their life and their love for books.
“We have young children come in and they sit on the floor and look at the books and then we have all the way up to retirees who visit and talk with us,” she said.
Over the years, she said, her fellow volunteers have become her friends.
“We will often go out to eat together, and if one of us is sick we take care of each other,” she said.
For a few years, Thomas worked as the treasurer for the bookstore.
In the past decade, she said, she has seen the bookstore grow in size and range of genres.
The lower level of the Homewood Library is a long hallway with maintenance closets, small meeting rooms and the bookstore. The bookstore takes up several rooms on one side of the hall while a space almost equally as large on the other side of the hall houses all the books yet to be put on display.
As books in the store move out, Thomas goes across the hall and restocks, although patrons are free to roam the stockroom as well.
Thomas said she wasn’t far into retirement before she realized she had to find a way to stay busy and give back.
“I couldn’t just sit at home alone by myself,” she said. “You’ve got to keep busy and a library is important.”
Thomas spends two days a week at the bookstore and three days a week participating in the New Horizons program at UAB – an academic and cultural course series for retired adults.
The Homewood Library’s Friends Bookstore is open to volunteers of any age, although the staff is mainly retirees. There is a nominal membership fee to join the Friends of the Library group.
Vestavia Hills’ Library in the Forest has a Friends’ bookstore as well.
Mountain Brook also has a Friends of the Library group, which hosts one large book sale per year.