081619_literary guild

Eleanor and George Ragsdale sort books at the Literary Guild’s used book store at the St. Simons Island Casino.

Books — boxes of them, piles of them, stacks reaching multiple feet in height — crowd the small room next to the Literary Guild’s Used Book Store.

The store, which is a single room in what used to be the St. Simons Visitor’s Center in the Casino, had just received a slew of donations, and a group of volunteers and Literary Guild board members were using their time at the store that day to sort through them.

“We love that we’re a volunteer and donation-based business — except for on days like today,” Eleanor Ragsdale, one such board member, said with a laugh as she surveyed the crowded room. “This is pretty common, though. We’re not suffering for lack of donations.”

“This is an every day thing,” said, Jim Ritter, a guild volunteer, as he sifted through one pile and created two more.

Ragsdale and her husband George, the board president, took over the responsibilities of the biannual book sale in the Casino Atrium in the last few years, and talked about wanting a store.

“My husband spoke to the appropriate people in the county, and we found this little space,” she said. “Once we got all the steps in place, we were able to open the store.”

The store, which opened in June 2018, is open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays and is entirely volunteer-run.

One hundred percent of the proceeds from the store as well as their book sales goes to the library. Ragsdale explained that the library doesn’t get much funding from the state or county governments, so the guild take it upon itself to help keep the library open for all to enjoy.

Maureen Hersey, manager of the St. Simons Island Public Library, said the store’s proceeds have helped provide the library with new materials — but also a place to store donated books.

“It’s much more convenient for the library staff and the Literary Guild folks to have a place where people can bring the books,” she said. “That’s freed up some space. People were bringing them and we’d just pile them up in the aisles. It was pretty crowded in here.”

From 2019’s first book sale, which took place in April, the guild were able to donate $15,000 to the library. They hope to match or increase this amount at their next sale, taking place Oct. 17 to 19.

Beyond aiding book-lovers local to Glynn County, Hersey said tourists and short-term visitors also benefit from the store’s presence.

“A lot of our visitors are people who are just coming through here on the way to someplace else,” she said. “It’s wonderful for them to get a great buy on a book.

“And sometimes we’ll have people who are staying here for two or three weeks, and if they’re not Georgia residents, they have to pay for library cards. This is a nice alternative for them, that they can go over and buy books.”

Ragsdale said the store isn’t hurting for volunteers or book donations, but that doesn’t mean there is no room for growth. Her dream, ultimately, is a bigger space and longer hours so even more people on the island and beyond can enjoy the literary wares available to them.

“Books for massively discounted rates,” she said. “Lots of people still like to hold books in their hands — for those people, you can’t get much better.”

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