Book and movie buffs have been suffering since Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc on Afterwords Bookstore, the bargain-basement haven for books and videos in the . But a $23,000 insurance settlement will give the basement a makeover by end of April.
The bookstore, a brainchild of Carol Wirth — long-time New Providence resident, 20-year member of the “Friends of the New Providence Library” and 12-year Library Board of Trustees member — opened seven years ago after the library was expanded, freeing up a room in the basement.
The bookstore has since been a source of about 2,000 "gently used" books and movies, which are sold for as little as $0.50 and as much as $1.50. A group of 10 to 12 volunteers, known as the "Friends of the New Providence Library," runs the bookstore and sorts through boxes of donated books on a regular basis. All proceeds from the bookstore — totaling several thousands of dollars since its doors first opened — are donated directly back to the library to support year-round programs and movie screenings.
Wirth’s stroll through a resale bookshop in Chapel Hill — during a trip to visit her son, Robert, who was attending Law School at UNC — sparked the idea in her mind. Walking through the bookstore divided by aisles of a mix of bookcases and furniture, she thought, “None of this matches. We could do this. We don’t have to infuse $4,000 to $5,000 to buy matching bookcases and furniture.”
She suggested the idea to the Friends and James Keebler, Library Director at that time, to assemble a resale bookshop and give all proceeds back to the library. Westfield Library and members of the community even donated a mix of bookcases and furniture to get the bookstore up and running.
“It was this wonderful jumble and whenever we talked about making it all really nice, nobody wanted to do it,” Wirth said. “It was just a neat idea and the wonderful thing is people came and [donated] books when they didn’t want them [anymore].”
But since Hurricane Irene tore through our area last August, the bookstore has been closed because a few inches of water ruined the carpet tiles and bookcases, said Library Director Colleen Byrne. Fortunately, the bookstore did not lose any books.
“The Department of Public Works crew came over within 24 hours [following Irene] and put a portable generator in to get the sump pumps working again. But by then, we had a few inches [of flooding],” Byrne explained. “Right now, the basement is completely empty. The carpet tiles are gone; the floors are down to a subfloor. We’re getting new vinyl tiles – hard floor, we learned our lesson — and we are getting new bookcases.”
The borough’s insurer, Selective Insurance Company, hired RestoreCore, Inc. to repair the damages. A crew came in early September to clean out the basement and pack away the books and videos into a storage pod that now sits in the library staff’s parking lot.
Now, eight months later, the complete restoration is just getting underway following two delays between the borough, Selective Insurance and RestoreCore. After the restoration company removed items from the basement, there was a question of how much the insurance company was going to pay and how much the restoration company was going to be charging, said Borough Administrator Doug Marvin.
“So there was some delay there. Then, before they could actually engage in the restoration work, they needed a contract signed, which is basically what the issue was,” Marvin said. “Since Selective had hired the company, we needed Selective to sign the contract with the contractor so that took some back and forth [between all parties involved].”
Marvin said Selective also cut the borough a check for $23,855.98 two months ago instead of sending the money directly to the restoration company.
“Since Selective hired the contractor, we thought it was appropriate for Selective to pay the contractor, rather than the borough pay the contractor. It took some back and forth with our attorneys and so forth, and with Selective,” Marvin explained. “We finally agreed, since they hired the contractor, they should be paying the contractor.”
Last Monday, Council members unanimously approved a resolution to return that money to Selective Insurance so they could directly pay the restoration company for their services.
At the end of last week, Byrne said she received word that supplies are being ordered for the basement and the restoration crew will be back in the upcoming weeks to complete the restoration. She is confident the bookstore will re-open in late April.
“They don’t place the order for the materials until they receive the money for it, which is very prudent of them,” Byrne said. “While the money was being figured out — who is going to handle it — the restoration company was waiting to place the order so they have it now and they are good to go.”
Byrne said many patrons have really missed the bookstore since it closed in late August.
“We get asked all the time, ‘is it back yet?!’ Especially over the Christmas holidays, they wanted it. Especially young people, college kids, people who enjoyed a book and want to give their friend, daughter-in-law, whomever a copy of it and if they can pick it at the bookshop, they are delighted,” Byrne said. “[The Friends] collect gently used books that are in excellent condition and organize them into a nice little neat library down there and they sell them very reasonably and people love it.”
Byrne said the bookstore accepts donations as long as the books are in like-new condition. Then, the books are sorted by the Friends and organized according to the Dewey Decimal system.
The Friends are a vital group to the library, regularly making programs and movies possible at the library, Byrne said.
“They do an awful lot. It’s a small handful of about 10 to 12 women and men who love the library, want to help make it the best it can be,” Byrne said. “The proceeds are donated to the library by the Friends because [the group] exists to help the library out. It’s like a win-win situation so we’re all really hoping to see the bookshop back in operational condition.”