On Friday morning a half dozen volunteers at the book exchange at Greenwich’s Holly Hill Resource Recovery and Recycling Facility were in constant motion.
Car after car pulled up. Drivers hopped out. Each one a resident with a stack of books to donate to the book swap.
Inside the book shed, rows of shelves were neatly organized by category – a bevvy of free books for residents to take home.
The book exchange was founded 46 years ago by Doug Francefort who will turn 90 on Dec 29. He and Bud Ross started the exchange with two 8-foot tables.
The book exchange has become a beloved Greenwich institution.
On any given Saturday morning ,friends and neighbors gather to chat and exchange news, all while browsing books to take home for free.
The shed is run entirely by volunteers and is open every Friday and Saturday morning.
It averages about 150 visitors every day, who take home from 400 – 500 books daily.
The exchange has many regular clients who use the shed as a lending library, and most people stay for only 5 minutes.
Most new visitors to the shed are amazed at the selection and think it is wonderful, while the regulars just consider it to be the best kept secret in Greenwich
Longtime book swap volunteer Lorrie Stapleton said that beyond the give and take of the busy book shed, there is more than meets the eye.
She said volunteers connect donated books to receiving schools and agencies like the Senior Center on Greenwich Avenue.
Stapleton said recently at Westover School, where the discovery of mold forced 800 students and staff to relocate to the former Pitney Bowes building, it was not possible to bring anything involving paper.
That’s where the book exchange volunteers came to the rescue, bringing carloads of donated books.
“They were so grateful for the books, and they are actually loving being at Pitney Bowes,” Stapleton said. “They are there indefinitely.”
Stapleton said Greenwich Country Day School recently held a book fair and parents brought in used books to donate.
“I filled my car twice,” she said.
Another example of connecting donated books with grateful recipients started at Christ Church where 5-year-old’s brought in books from their homes to donate.
“They counted all the books and divided them into categories,” Stapleton said. “It was a math lesson.”
Stapleton said that in Bridgeport Toys 4 Tots had 1,000 toys stolen.
“Four of their six pods were broken into,” she said. “We brought up twelve boxes of books yesterday. They had such a wonderful response. They said they now have enough to give every child not one, but two or three books.
Stapleton said starting in January the regular book exchange hours will be shortened a bit. Instead of opening at 7:00am, they will open at 9:00am and stay open until 12:00noon.
Check out the book swap website books4veryone.org