A Book Scavenger’s Dream

It’s a beautiful, cool, crisp, and sunny morning, and I’m on my way to the ReUse Center in search of books.

The ReUse Center got its start in 1996 when the movement to create places for the community to donate and shop at a nonprofit was beginning to really take off. Ann Arborites find their way to the store on Industrial to poke around for all kinds of good things from building materials to household goods and yes, to books.

By the time I arrive, the place is hopping with people milling around looking for a good find. There are about 15 people in the book section – people filling bags, adults and kids looking at titles, showing them to each other and then putting them in their ‘take home’ pile, and people reading. According to general manager Chris Lounsberry, the books at the ReUse Center attract many kinds of book lovers. “All sorts of people come through here for books. We get a lot of local book dealers that like to come through and dig for treasure. We also have teachers that come in to stock up on children’s books for their classroom. Lastly, we have regular customers that come in looking for a good deal on a lot of books.” Fiction and children’s books are their biggest sellers.

It’s clear to see that the ReUse Center books are so popular because of the breadth of their selection, coupled with very reasonable prices. “We accept all kinds of books. We have a huge variety of both soft and hardcover fiction and nonfiction. We also take in magazines and comic books,” says Chris. “The majority of our books are priced between 25 cents and $1.50, so you can grab quite a few for not a lot!”

I decide to walk into the back where the furniture is and to my left I notice a gentleman hunched over a desk with a lamp and surrounded by books. Here I had found the mastermind of the ReUse Center book section – Emerson. This is the person who goes through the books that are brought in and decides what to keep and what to donate elsewhere. Emerson has an easygoing smile and I’m sure has a ton of stories to tell. He has been sorting books for the center for ten years. “It’s like Christmas everyday I come into work,” he says, grinning. “What do you want people to know about the books here?” I ask. “That we have good books. Lots of good books.” He smiles.I walk back to the book section and pick out three books for $2. I am happy.

–Kay Marsh, with the help of Shelby Taylor

The ReUse Center closed permanently in September 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Featured in March 2017 newsletter