Library bookstore continues to flourish

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Photo by Jenna Benson. Stacks of books in the Rancho San Diego Library wait to be picked up and read.
Photo by Jenna Benson.
Bookshelves line the walls of the Rancho San Diego library bookstore.

Libraries are usually where we go to check out books (and movies or CDs) to enjoy at our leisure. The items are returned so others can enjoy and learn from them. But what if you could buy and take the books home, helping the community in the process?

The Rancho San Diego Library is much more than a library. Before you reach the library, the courtyard will envelop you, with a coffee shop to your left and an entrance to the bookstore on the right. The filled carts directly outside of the bookstore advertise that the books outside are a steal for 10 cents, and invite you inside to see what else they have in stock.

The books are reasonably priced, anywhere from 10 cents to a few dollars, depending on the condition. Sherry Johnson, the founding president and bookstore manager, wanted this bookstore to take donations, meaning the money goes back to the library and other community events.

Johnson was key in the decision to include a bookstore.

“Back in 1999 the County Board of Supervisors committed to build a library where it stands today. I had seen other libraries with bookstores and it made good sense to me,” Johnson said. But to start a bookstore you need books to sell and people to sell them.

“I recruited many friends of mine who also were dedicated readers and wanted a library in Rancho San Diego,” said Johnson.

Among Johnson’s other friends in the community, Bob and Sue Chambers enlisted the help of their local Over the Hill Gang Classic Car Club.

“They held a fundraiser for us in the Ralph’s shopping center and everyone brought books to donate,” she said.

Sue, the current bookstore treasurer, and Sherry stored the books in their garages until the bookstore was completed.

“On opening day in May 2002, we opened the store with lots of books on the shelves. And we have been open and raising money ever since.”

Since opening, the money the bookstore has raised goes back into benefiting the library and its community.

“We have paid for library expenses totaling $382,332.67. These expenses range from summer reading programs and prizes, new books and DVDs for the library collection, musical performers each second Tuesday of the month, and anything else the staff requests.”

Not only is the bookstore run by volunteers, but it funds new events and opportunities for the library. Johnson has always had one goal for the bookstore: “we want all the people in our community to be able to afford to buy books for their families.”

With books priced as low as 10 cents and a wide variety of genres, the bookstore is bursting with options for everyone.

All of the items sold in the bookstore are donated locally. The bookstore has received so many donations that Johnson has considered expanding.

“Our community supports our efforts by donating hundreds of books each month. Occasionally we have to suspend accepting books because we have no more room,” she said. “About 2 years ago I submitted a detailed plan for expansion that would double our space. I am eagerly awaiting a decision by our Director Migell Acosta to proceed.”

The library bookstore has already brought so much joy and education to the community over the last two decades. An expansion will provide the much-needed space for more books, and endless opportunities for more activities for the library as well as for the community. The Rancho San Diego Library Bookstore is located at 11555 Via Rancho San Diego, El Cajon, CA 92019, and is open Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm.