Friends of Library searches for space

Published 10:56 pm Tuesday, September 22, 2009

For years, the Friends of Suffolk Library organization has supported numerous programs in the Suffolk Public Library system through its monthly used book sales, which bring in more than $20,000 annually for library programs and materials.

The books are sold from a decades-old warehouse on East Pinner Street, which, until recently, was owned by the Norfolk Southern Railway. The Friends of Suffolk Library maintained the building and surrounding land in exchange for a rent-free agreement from the railroad corporation.

However, the railroad recently sold the Friends of Suffolk Library building and others close by to LeOtis Williams, who owns LW’s Lawn Service and MWM Investments. The businesses’ offices are located next to the Friends of Suffolk Library building.

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Though Williams has told the organization’s volunteers they won’t have to move anytime soon, the organization already has begun forming plans, Prudence Bachmann, a Friends volunteer, said.

“We are going to start to try to develop a plan to find another facility in the city,” Bachmann said.

Bachmann wrote to the city this summer to request help finding another suitable space for the organization’s continued operations. City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn connected her with Gerry Jones, the city’s capital programs and buildings manager, to come up with a solution.

Bachmann said the organization has talked with Williams, who could not be reached for comment on this story.

“There’s no panic on our part,” Bachmann said. “Mr. LeOtis is an extremely professional person. I think we’ll probably be there for another couple of years, unless the city finds us a really great space.”

Volunteers estimate the warehouse, which has no heating or air conditioning, contains more than 50,000 books. Sales are held the first Friday and Saturday of every month, except July and January.

In addition to selling donated books, the organization also gives many away to the jail, Sunday schools and other groups that need them, Bachmann said.

Bachmann seemed confident the group would be able to find another space when it needs to leave its current building. Closing the doors on Friends of Suffolk Library is the last thing she would want, she said.

“That would be, to me, just horrible,” Bachmann said. “If we had to move and couldn’t find a space, I would hate that.”

Bachmann also mentioned the group is in need of more volunteers to help sort books at the warehouse, 701 E. Pinner St., on Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.