Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Power of Used Books

by Paula Gail Benson

I have a friend named Fran Bush who, with carefully selected cohorts, accomplishes the impossible almost every day. No exaggeration.

Don Bush, second from the right, photo by Cindy Kubovic for the Aiken Standard
She and her husband Don, both lovely, genial, retired booksellers, spend their time making the world better for people and animals. They are well known in their home town of Aiken, South Carolina, for their community contributions. Any abandoned or rescued cat or dog can find a refuge at the Bush abode, and likely may become a permanent resident. (Currently, they support six dogs and thirty cats.) In 2017, the Bushs were honored by the local branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) for their leadership.

Fran’s connection with the local AAUW began when, while still working at her bookstore, she donated and collected used books for the annual AAUW Books ‘n Things Fair. She also helped to set up lunch programs with authors (including her dear friends Charles and Caroline Todd--take a look, she’s mentioned in their Bess Crawford acknowledgments) to raise funds for education efforts.

Fran Bush and Amy Conkelton, photo by Dede Biles for the Aiken Standard
This year, Fran and her good friend Amy Conkelton were named co-chairs for the AAUW Books ‘n Things Fair.

Amy is another force for good in the Aiken community. She has been an English teacher and school librarian at Aiken High School as well as caretaker for her mother.

Recently, Amy was sidelined by a severe automobile accident that required five surgeries for shattered bones in both her feet and ankles. Nevertheless, she persevered with planning for the Fair, even while in rehab.

Fran speaks humbly about their involvement in the event. “This is not something Amy or I can take credit for. The Fair is organized by a group of people who know what they are doing and have done it for thirty-five years. The biggest thing I did was to stay out of their way or do something when they needed it done.”

Front Room of AAUW Books 'n Things Fair, photo by Cindy Kubovic for the Aiken Standard
What the group did was collect 80,000 books to sell. In addition, they had a section of “Attic Treasures” that featured clothing, jewelry, household items, Christmas decorations, and other merchandise, including special books (those extremely new or very old that were specially priced). They also operated a food court, where shoppers could take a break and order from a delicious menu.

For the first two days of the event, each hard cover book was priced at two dollars, trade paperbacks were one dollar, and mass-market paperbacks were fifty cents. On the last day, everything was reduced to half price.

On the first day, Don Bush opened the doors early to let shoppers come in out of the rain. They had a record crowd.
Back Room of the AAUW Books 'n Things Fair, photo by Cindy Kubovic for the Aiken Standard
During the three days, approximately 70,000 books were sold. The 10,000 left went to different charities, including the local free libraries, another city’s library, another library’s book sale, a church library, and a church’s book sale (to raise money for a summer school Bible program).

This year’s Books ‘n Things raised $61,249, all of which the AAUW will provide to education projects and for scholarships.

So, you see, it’s not just the power of words, but the power of used books that, even in this age of technology, may make a significant difference.

Thanks, Fran, Don, and Amy. I look forward to seeing you at next year’s event.

Have you experienced the power of used books?


  1. I have given away books to churches and libraries that by now I'd guess total close to 1,000. I'm no longer collecting additional books, but still buying books, which means every book I buy results in another book being given away.

    (Which isn't to say I still don't own LOTS of books!)

  2. I donate to the Cincinnati Hamilton County Library system, which holds warehouse sales twice a year, as well as children's books to various shelter programs around the city.

  3. Wow--I'm so impressed. I've donated many books over the years. In the process of moving, I had to give up my cook book collection I'd amassed for thirty years. I wish our church bake sale raised 1/4 of what they did. But then books are food for the soul. AAUW is an excellent organization. Wish them the best from us, Paula. They did an amazing job!

  4. Such a nice story, such a valuable contribution to the community!

  5. I saw the power of used books when I worked as a librarian. Dedicated volunteers raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years that were used to fund children's library programs. It was amazing and heartwarming to see how so many kids benefited from work like this. Kudos to these volunteers!

  6. Wow! Paula, that is impressive. I donate my books to my local library for their annual library sale. I also donate the bookmarks I collect at conferences. People love getting bookmarks, and they publicize authors books.

  7. I donated tot he Wetumka Public Library after water damage destroyed many of their children's books. What a great project!

  8. I have a house full of used books I've bought from a local used book store. I also give her some of my used books and I've donated used books to other places, too. I also give books from the Catherine Jewell Mystery Series I write to several local libraries, too.

  9. What a fabulous project! If I ever go to Aiken, it will be during the fair, they may have to bodily eject me though.

  10. Thank you for all the kind comments, which I will pass along to Fran, Amy, and Don. Congratulations to you all for participating in activities where the transfer of books benefits many!