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The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

Textbooks for $2 or less available from used bookstore

Books, vinyl records, DVDs and CDs are available for purchase in the Used Book and Media Store of the SFSU library building
Neal Wong
Barbara Loomis shelves books in the Friends Used Book & Media Store on Feb. 7, 2024. (Neal Wong / Golden Gate Xpress)

At the beginning of each semester, many students scramble to purchase expensive textbooks. Some fail to notice the giant signs announcing books and media available for just $1 or $2 in the Friends Used Book and Media Store, which is in San Francisco State University’s library building, across from Peet’s Coffee.

“It’s a really good deal,” said Barbara Loomis, the president of Friends of the J. Paul Leonard Library.

The nonprofit was founded in 1980 to support the library. The organization operates the bookstore, hosts events, and solicits gifts and donations for the library. When Loomis worked as a history professor, her colleagues were active in the organization and recruited her.

“Initially, the organization gathered books and had sales out in the courtyard, like once or twice a year,” Loomis said.

Eventually, they gained a permanent space in the library building. The organization raises around $25,000 to $30,000 annually, according to Loomis.

“Every once in a while, we have to do something like buy a new book cart or we have telephone bills that we pay, but other than that, it pretty much all goes to the library,” Loomis said.

Students walk past the Friends Used Book & Media Store on Feb. 12, 2024. (Neal Wong / Golden Gate Xpress) (Neal Wong)

That money is used to purchase equipment and materials that can’t be funded otherwise.

“For instance, the Bay Area Television Archives uses a digitizer that the Friends of the Library purchased for them,” Loomis said.

The money also funds library projects and up to five $2000 scholarships for students who work in the library or volunteer in the bookstore.

All books, vinyl records, DVDs and CDs sold in the store come from donors.

“Sometimes, it’s students who finish their education and they enjoyed their classes, but they want to make sure that other classmates can get the books inexpensively,” Loomis said. “A lot of times, faculty, when they’re retiring, donate their books.”

People can leave donations on a cart outside of the store.

“If they have a lot that they want to donate, they can call us and we can arrange to meet them out at the loading dock,” Loomis said. “Occasionally, we also organize to assist people by picking up their donations.”

The store is staffed by volunteers like Arshya Abedi, a first-year student double-majoring in Business Administration and Cinema. She first visited the bookstore in the first week of last semester.

“I found a book — Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice — for $1. And I had to go in here and see if they had any positions open,” Abedi said. “They had a volunteer position open, so I just took it.”

The bookstore is cash-only. People who want to buy books but don’t currently have cash can have their books held for when they return with it.

“People come in, fill out a form that includes their full name, the date, and their email [and] phone number to contact them,” Abedi said.

The Friends Used Book & Media Store interior on Feb. 12, 2024. (Neal Wong / Golden Gate Xpress) (Neal Wong)

A.San.Te Goode is Abedi’s friend and hangs out with her in the bookstore.

“When I first heard all the books were donated, I was a little concerned because a lot of the times when people donate things, they donate things they don’t want or there’s usually something wrong,” Goode said.

She realized that wasn’t the case with the bookstore.

“All the books here are nice… The genres are very, very diverse. It has things from architecture, art-related books. They even have an honoring Black history section, which I find really great. I’m very happy,” she said.

Darius Taylor had just purchased a drink from Peet’s Coffee when he noticed the store and visited it for the first time.

“I love the idea of there being a bookstore that doesn’t seem predatory — $1 or $2 for really good books, great condition,” Taylor said.

He plans to return and thinks more people should read books.

“Books open up a world that more people should be engaged in exploring,” Taylor said. “I really want people to put down the phones, put down the laptops, open up a book. This is a treasure trove of information — stories and narratives and information that is literally at our fingertips.”

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About the Contributor
Neal Wong, Co-Copy Editor
Neal Wong (he/him) is a third-year journalism student and minoring in urban studies and planning. He was born and raised in San Francisco and attended Washington High School. He has photographed and written for Golden Gate Xpress first as a contributor, then as a photographer, and now as a copy editor. His photos have also been published by the San Francisco Bay ViewSan Francisco Public Press, Mission Local, and Xpress Magazine. Neal has also created and taught four SFSU Experimental College courses. His hobbies include traveling, cooking, and reading.

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