An eleventh-hour offer of free storage space from the owner of a Leesburg shopping center will allow the Loudoun Library Foundation’s June book sale to go on as scheduled.
The foundation had been on the verge of canceling the event, which it has had nearly every year since 1988 to raise money for library programs, because it lacked storage space for the donated items.
The owner of the Exeter Shopping Center on Battlefield Parkway will provide 2,500 square feet of space free of charge for the foundation to collect books, CDs and DVDs for the sale, foundation Chairman Chris Hill said.
Hill said it’s “a short-term fix, but it does allow us to move ahead this year.”
Other than a 7-Eleven and a few other stores, the shopping center is unoccupied. Hill said the foundation will begin collecting donations in the space by the first weekend in March.
The shopping center’s owner, Sizdahkhani Limited Partnership, offered the space as a gesture of goodwill, said James Legat, the listing agent for the property. “They are trying to be good stewards of the community,” he said.
Chang Liu, director of the Loudoun County library system, said she was delighted and relieved to hear the news.
“For years, [the foundation] has contributed $25,000 every year to fund the Summer Reading Program, where more than 40,000 children and teens improve their reading skills, attend early literacy and other educational programs, and learn about [the library’s] resources,” she said
In addition to the reading program, which Hill said will receive $30,000 from the foundation this year, the book sale helps support other library programs.
“We contributed toward a public art project at the new Gum Spring Library,” Hill said, referring to a mosaic by local tile artist Joan Gardiner. “We contributed [about] $10,000 toward that, and we had previously supported a similar project at Purcellville Library when that was renovated a number of years ago.”
The foundation also donated $10,000 this year to the Thomas Balch Library in Leesburg to preserve and digitize deteriorating tapes of WAGE radio broadcasts, he said.
Hill estimated that the book sale has raised more than $500,000 for library programs since its inception in 1988. The sale has gone on every year since then except 2007, when the foundation did not obtain sufficient storage space for the donated items.
Hill estimated that last year’s book sale offered 75,000 used books, CDs and DVDs and sold about 60 percent of them, raising $40,000 for library programs. The number of donated items decreased last year, he said.
“That is a very significant reduction in our intake last year, particularly in terms of books, probably about 20 percent fewer donated books than we had in the previous year,” he said.
“We really feel we’re starting to see the impacts of the Kindles and the iPads,” he said. “We’re going to be tracking that very carefully again this year to see if our book count is continuing to drop that dramatically. Because that then means we have to start thinking now about a new model for how we raise funds.”
For several years, the foundation had shared donated warehouse space in Sterling with the Holiday Coalition, but that space was not available this year, Hill said. He said having the new collection site in a more visible location will help.
“We found last year, with our facility in Sterling, we weren’t in a location where people found it easy to come to us,” Hill said. “We’re hoping that being back in Leesburg this year, and being in a fairly accessible location, we might see more people coming in and dropping off” materials.
Hill said book sale is much more than just a fundraiser for the libraries.
“In so many ways, in terms of that community event, it is a big deal,” he said. “What’s always so rewarding about the sale is that there are people who come and buy books who comment that they wouldn’t be able to do this otherwise. Buying new books, or even books in used book stores, for some people it’s prohibitive. And this is just an incredible opportunity for them.”
Terry and Gerri Hill, a retired Leesburg couple who have volunteered at the book sale for five years, said they were pleased to hear about the donation of storage space.
“We are beyond excited. We were very worried that the book sale might not happen this year,” Gerri Hill said. “It’s just an incredible event that brings the community together and promotes literacy and recycling.”
Terry Hill said the book sale is a great event for children. “They have a whole cafeteria full of children’s books,” he said. “The children come with their parents and grandparents and leave with stacks of books. It’s a great way to get started reading.”
The book sale is scheduled for June 28 to 30 at Smarts Mill Middle School in Leesburg.