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In response to public demand, the Santa Maria Public Library is reopening on Monday a used bookstore inside the space previously occupied by the Friends of the Library's shop.

The store — which will be stocked with books, DVDs and magazines — will be operated by library administration and all proceeds will support the library, located at 421 S. McClelland St.

Following the closure of the Friends’ shop in July, Library Director Mary Housel said the library considered many ways to fill the space but decided to keep using the area as a bookstore due to public comments.

“We had a lot of people say they missed the books for sale,” Housel said. “At first, I thought we would do a request for proposal for the space and I contacted some booksellers and I got the feeling that no one was really going to be interested in it. And I thought, we have so many books, and our books have always been and always will be cheaper than any used bookstore anywhere.”

Items will range in cost from 50 cents to $2, and all the store’s products will be available on a self-service model, Housel said.

When customers see a book or other items they’re interested in purchasing, they will calculate the cost and deposit the money into a small white box that's been bolted to the wall near the entrance to the store. The store will run on the honor system.

“We’re not going to have any volunteers,” Housel said. “It’ll be run by the library. We might have some volunteers stock the shelves, but right now we’re just doing it by ourselves.”

Housel hopes the shop will be a place for library patrons to spend time reading and drinking coffee.

“People will be able to bring their laptops, use the Wi-Fi,” Housel said. “We’ll have tables and chairs, which are new. We removed some of the free-standing shelves there to make room for seating. We have a lot of people that want to bring coffee into the library, but we don’t allow anything but water. So they’ll be able to have their coffee there and look at the books that are available to buy.”

The shop will be stocked with donated books and library discards, said Housel, estimating there will be around 2,500 items for sale in the shop at any given moment.

While the store will raise money for the library, the ultimate goal is to just get books in the hands of people, Housel said.

“We like to get the books in the hands of kids, people who can’t afford books, for next to nothing,” Housel said. “That’s what we’re all about.

“We’re just kind of going to feel it out and see how it goes,” Housel said, adding the layout and operation of the store could evolve over the following months.

In addition to the library store, Moxie Cafe will operate a small restaurant in the library’s lobby beginning Monday.

The library’s cafe area has been empty since June 30, when the former tenant — Cafe Steinbecks — left.

Moxie Cafe, which runs a restaurant on McCoy Lane in southern Santa Maria, will offer coffee drinks, smoothies, fresh salads, greens and sandwiches. To serve additional diners, the library will add outside seating for 24 people in a cordoned-off area just north of the library, Housel said.

“After all the July inflammation, we’re ready to move forward,” Housel said, referring to the closing of the Friends of the Library bookshop. The Friends’ shop, which operated inside the library, closed last month after the Friends and city were unable to come to an agreement on either a memorandum of understanding — which lays out the general principles of agreement between different parties — or a lease.

In the weeks before the Friends’ store closed, board members of the nonprofit group were publicly critical of the city and library management, arguing the city insisted on unacceptable terms for the proposed MOU and lease.

City officials said the terms they insisted on were necessary to limit the library’s liability.

“It was a difficult situation, but I think we have a way to move forward,” Housel said.

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Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.  Follow him on Twitter @razisyed


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