If you haven’t been to The BookCellar located in the basement of the Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library recently, there are more reasons than ever to stop by and visit. The BookCellar represents a major resource to the community and yet many Old Lyme residents are unaware of its existence. But now there are more reasons than ever to stop by since the place now has a whole new look with more space for both browsing and sitting, attractive face-out displays and a brand new ’25 cent sale’ section.
The recently appointed co-managers Paulette Zander and Ann de Selding are well on their way to transforming the BookCellar into one of those delightful little bookshops that have all but disappeared, primarily due the impact of online shopping. This transformation isn’t really a great surprise when one considers Zander is the former owner of the beloved ‘Happy Carrot’ bookshop in Old Lyme. Meanwhile, de Selding worked at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts for more than 12 years as the Director of Alumni and Volunteer Relations, meaning that organizing — and reorganizing — is in her DNA.
An ardent book-lover, who previously turned her passion into her business, Zander comments enthusiastically about her new position, “I’m living vicariously through this — just touching and fondling the books is rewarding.” De Selding elaborates further on Paulette’s involvement in The BookCellar, saying, “Paulette’s legacy [from The Happy Carrot] to this community — and to these books — has morphed into a wonderful continuity for the town.”
The BookCellar houses upwards of 7,000 books, which include, but are not limited to titles falling under the following sections: History, Classics, Biographies, Gardening, Cooking, and Children & Young Adults and, of course, an enormous supply of fiction and non-fiction. There’s no question that there’s something for everyone in the BookCellar so Zander and de Selding hope to make The Cellar a frequent stop for book lovers, as well as one that is affordable to all.
In addition to the basement, The BookCellar offers a selection of very gently used books and DVDs for sale in the main lobby of the Library. Each month features a different theme and, in a nod to the long-awaited season, April’s theme is appropriately Spring Pursuits.
Built in 1995, along with a new addition to the Library, The BookCellar operates under the umbrella of the Friends of the Library, the volunteer fundraising arm of the Library. It is fully staffed and managed by more than 55 dedicated volunteers, including de Selding and Zander. Friends of the Library President Mary Haymann is enormously appreciative of all the volunteer efforts, noting that they are helping to support what, “… is now really the only bookstore in town.” Moreover, she stresses, “When you buy a book in The BookCellar, you are supporting the library. All proceeds from the Cellar go directly to library.” Every one of the books, DVDs and CDs is donated by local area residents allowing sales from The BookCellar to contribute around a staggering — and most welcome – $20,000 each year to the Library’s budget.
Many of the library volunteers, including Haymann, have made a long-term commitment to the institution. Haymann has been president of the Friends since 2008, but her involvement with the library goes back much further. Her father Joseph Dunn was the librarian for 20 years from 1947-67 and her mother, Mae Dunn, followed in his footsteps in the early 70s.
New volunteers are always welcome at The BookCellar and de Selding notes, “The hours are flexible meaning they are as long or short as you choose — and the pay is priceless!” On a more serious note, she continues, “We would love more folk to join us here – it’s a great work environment. We never know what the next drop-off of donations will bring, so there are plenty of surprises and treasures in our business. You can volunteer just a few hours each month and we really have a lot of fun down here.” If you are interested in volunteering, contact PhoebesBookCellar@yahoo.com or call 860.434.1684 and ask for The Book Cellar for further information.
The Cellar is also able to “pay it forward” by donating thousands of books, which are shipped to Ghana, as well as numerous books to the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme for the annual White Elephant Sale; children’s books to the Soup Kitchen (through the Henderson Project); and age-appropriate books to the Lymes’ Senior Center. The BookCellar will also be present at the Midsummer Festival at the Library, where a huge number of books will be for sale.
Donations of books are welcome year-round. If you’re currently doing some spring cleaning and have some books to donate, take them to the Library during operating hours* and place them in the box near the elevator on the lobby level.
Zander and de Selding are also planning to start a twice-yearly collection program in May and December, when they will arrange pick-up of books from resident’s homes. The program is still in its development phase but watch for more details soon in announcements from the library and published on LymeLine.com.
Operating year round, The BookCellar is open on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For a limited period of time, the Cellar will be open Mondays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
*The library is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1- a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays.