The Friends And Advocates Bookstore: A Hidden Feature Within The Library


Sarina Starling, Staff Writer

 The Friends and Advocates organization began its run in 1995, founded by a community of bibliophiles. There are several locations for The Friends and Advocates franchise: Post Road in Cumming, Sharon Forks, and another at Hampton Park. Each bookstore is staffed by a few different longtime members of the program. The Cumming Friends and Advocates Bookstore, established in January of 2012, is run by Abbey Harkrider, the board of director, and Kelly Esbeck, a co-manager, while a multitude of volunteers work during the week and on weekends.

    Three goals for the bookstore are outlined on the website, those goals being financial support for the library, free advertising for the library and its’ programs, and a partnership between the Forsyth County Jail and the bookstore. Each month, many paperback books are donated to those who have been imprisoned and books that are unable to be sold within the confines of the bookstore are donated to a global website called Better World Books. Better World keeps books out of landfills and supports the growth of literacy around the world.

    One of the reasons why the bookstore has increased in popularity among the community is because, as Carol Jezek, a volunteer who works shifts on Thursdays and Saturdays puts it, “Prices here are extremely reasonable and materials are in good condition.” Edna King, another volunteer who works the shift after mine on Sundays agrees, adding that, “The prices are reasonable, very reasonable, and like I said, there is a variety of history, travel, research.” At the bookstore, you can purchase paperback children and teen books for fifty cents, the same price as the magazines there. The most expensive items you can buy are two older adult hardbacks or a BluRay DVD, both for five dollars.

When I went to interview Ms. Jezek last week, a woman came in during her shift and purchased a book, then commented that if she were to lose the book, it would only be two dollars lost. Many times when I have worked a shift, either by myself or with my co-manager, customers who have purchased books have remarked that their books bought here are way cheaper than the books they have purchased at Barnes and Noble.

    While those who purchase books from the store benefit from the inexpensive prices, “Both [the library and bookstore patrons] benefit in different but equally important ways.” states Abby Harkrider. She continues, saying, “The library benefits by having an outlet to offer ‘library-culled’ books back to taxpayers as mandated by law and the bookstore is an added draw, bringing more people to the library. Patrons benefit by having wonderful sources of great reading and listening materials at very reasonable prices in several locations throughout the community.”

The money that is donated to the library through book purchases is then used to fund various library programs for both adults and children, such as Summer Reading Fun for kids and teens, Forsyth Reads Together and Forsyth Writes Together for adults, and the Visiting Musicians/Music Programs, also for adults.

Jodie Barger, the FCPL Friends and Advocates President provided a greater explanation as to how the Friends help the library, stating, “The Friends help by collecting, sorting, and providing a marketplace for those books as well as donated books from the public. Many times books that are donated by the public are removed by the library and put into circulation saving taxpayer dollars from having to buy them. The Friends provides a great service to the library by generating some additional funding and not having to pay staff to fulfill this service.”

The library and patrons positively benefit from The Friends and Advocates Bookstore’s existence, but there is a third group that also benefits:

the volunteers themselves. Barger expresses that “human connection is so vital.” “Many of our volunteers are over the age of 60 and are now retired and of course each loves to read. They come from all career types and have skills that are still needed. As we age, we tend to become more isolated. These volunteers give 2-3 hours once a week and are engaged in their community. The customers provide contact with people that the volunteers would not necessarily have exposure to. They love seeing the young kids come in to pick out a book or the teen trying to find a cheap copy of a classic they need to read for lit class or a used test prep book or someone like themselves who is reading for pleasure or going on a trip soon.”

She continues. Another added bonus for the volunteers? “As a small benefit for their volunteer time the Friends offers free books after so many hours they worked.” informs Barger, making it the perfect opportunity for those who are older and able to get out of the house.

Despite the Friends and Advocates Bookstore at the Cumming Library not being as well-known as it should be, they still manage to make 250 book sales per month. The organization positively affects several groups (the library, patrons, and volunteers) involved and furthermore, its’ existence helps to benefit the community through its’ continued support of library programs, all of which serve the community in various ways.