Donation-driven Brunswick book shop starts a new chapter

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BRUNSWICK — Twice Told Tales, a used bookstore that benefits Curtis Memorial Library, reopened March 10 after renovations.

Outfitted with greater storage and administrative space, the volunteer-run, donation-driven bookshop moved to a larger space below its original storefront at 11 Pleasant St. and is the same as it ever was – only bigger and better organized.

The public is invited to celebrate the reopening 4-6 p.m. Friday, March 31, when refreshments will be served.

Twice Told Tales opened in 2015, and is run by the nonprofit Friends of Curtis Library, an organization of about 700 people. About 40 volunteers spend half- day shifts at the bookstore, which is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

The bookshop effectively took the place of the library’s annual June book sale at the Brunswick Junior High School. 

Though extremely popular, the sale required the herculean effort of moving approximately 6,000 volumes across town for a three-day event – books the library lacked space to store throughout the year as people dropped off donations, volunteer Katy Kline explained Monday.

Twice Told Tales, essentially a year-round library sale in a bookshop format, solved that problem.

Kline, who helped oversee the store’s recent transformation, said inventory is constantly changing and depends on donations.

On Monday afternoon, about a half-dozen readers were browsing the store’s many library-style metal shelves, perusing everything from new releases to obscure reads – the kind of quirky or rare books expected to be hiding at a library sale.

“You never know what you’re going to find,” Kline said.

And she would know. Kline and a handful of other volunteers packed and hauled over 400 boxes of books downstairs to the new location during the two-and-a-half-month closure.

Hardcovers are uniformly priced at $5, and paperbacks are $4.

New releases are the exception, costing $8 – but children’s books are $1 or a 50-cent bargain.

All sales benefit the library.

The library generates additional revenue through an online store, where rare or premium books that might appeal to a wider audience are sold.

Harry Upcroft earned his position heading online sales because he was deemed tech-savvier than the other volunteers.

Since he took the position, he’s sold and shipped books as far away as Australia. Books, he said, he didn’t always recognize the titles of, but had value to someone, somewhere.

When a bookshop volunteer comes across a donated book they think might be worth something – maybe it has a fancy binding, or is signed by the author – it’s up to Upcroft to determine its worth. 

Relying on the International Standard Book Number, Google searches, and, at times, a gut feeling, he sets a price.

“We’re getting better at picking out the ones we should be looking at,” he said Monday, standing in a new, 12-by-18-foot room dedicated to online sales.

After picking a price, Upcroft photographs the book, formats the image in Photoshop, and uploads it to online retailers like Amazon.com.

His new office is complete with a staging area for photos and laptop work – jobs he used to do at home for lack of space in the old location.

“Some of these older things,” he said, leafing through a collection of Boston Symphony Orchestra programs from the 1938-39 season, priced at $63 – “are esoteric.”

Some have more obvious value, like a $575 six-volume set of Jane Austen novels, or a boxed collection of Encyclopedia Britannica that could go for as much or more.

In the back sorting room, Kline and fellow volunteers are still unpacking.

The sorting room, like the online sales office, gives volunteers the space they need to properly comb through and categorize donations, Kline said.

Kline recalled the old location as cramped and disorganized, and a continuous, generous stream of donations replenished high stack of books and kept cramped volunteers busy year-round.

Although Kline recognized that having too many books was always a good problem to have.

“Book-lovers like to think of their books going to another reader,” she said.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

Twice Told Tales, a used bookstore in Brunswick that benefits Curtis Memorial Library, reopened March 10.

Volunteer Katy Kline in the new sorting room at Twice Told Tales in Brunswick, where volunteers comb through and categorize used books donated to Curtis Memorial Library.

Twice Told Tales reopened March 10 in Brunswick after renovations increased the volunteer-run used bookstore’s shelving space, sorting, and administrative space. During the temporary two-and-half-month closure, volunteers packed and moved more than 400 boxes of books.

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Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.