A quote often attributed to iconic American writer Mark Twain goes, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.”
Fortunately, both conditions can be remedied at the Hotspot/Welcome Centre Community Bookstore on Cleveland Avenue. What started as a small fundraising effort has blossomed into a busy full-time enterprise for volunteers at the Squamish Welcome Centre, according to coordinator Kim Smerek.
“We started the used bookstore early in the year, so we’ve only been open a few months,” she said. “We are a non-profit, so we wanted to find a way to sustain ourselves, plus we wanted to bring in money to fund community literacy programs. It was very small to begin with, and we only had a few books on the shelves.”
But the idea proved popular and soon the store started to expand.
“People have found us mostly through word of mouth and through our two different Facebook pages — one for the Hotspot and one for the Welcome Centre,” Smerek said. “I’m amazed at how we’ve grown.”
The store now has more donated books than its shelves can hold, and there always seem to be customers browsing the titles looking for the perfect read, she said.
“We’re getting everything from great literature to pulp fiction, tons of B.C. stuff like travel guides and the history of B.C., and even some rare books,” Smerek said. “And every day there seems to be more and more people coming into the store. It isn’t just locals, either, but tourists as well. People just can’t help themselves when it comes to a used bookstore.”
But the shop is experiencing some growing pains, as well, and needs more volunteers, she said.
“Currently, we are only open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” Smerek said. “But we are entirely volunteer-run. So, sometimes people come by and we’re closed because there just aren’t enough volunteers to maintain the hours.”
There’s hope the bookstore will keep expanding and offer even more than just inexpensive used books, though.
“By mid-August we want to be open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. if possible, as well as Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. We’re also hoping to be able to offer events in the future, like book readings,” she said. “There are a lot of great local authors around, and we’d really like to help promote them.”
Books cost $2 (or $1 for children’s literature) and old magazines are 50 cents. That pocket change funds the centre’s variety of literacy programs — including English as a Second Language (ESL) — offered in partnership with Capilano University and headed by Trudie Neubert, as well as computer tutoring, a re-use it program, and more, plus outreach programs aimed at helping newcomers adjust to the community.
“It’s really a sharing of cultures,” Smerek said. “We share our culture and give them comfort and ease in a new place and community, and they in turn share their culture with us.”
If you’d like to share your culture, spare time, extra shelves or used books with the community bookstore or welcome centre, call (604) 815-4142, email email@example.com, or visit seatoskycommunity.org.