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Nonprofit book store offers great variety and customer service

A longtime Branson business has a new manager and a new name.


The Friends of the Library Book Store, formerly the Taneyhills Library Used Book Store, is located in the lower level of the Library Center of the Ozarks. The Book Store has been in existence for close to 30 years, having opened shortly after the most recent addition to the library was completed in the mid 1990s. Always popular with tourists and locals alike, the Friends of the Library Book Store provides a second life to books that have been gently loved.


"When we receive donations, the Library Manager is the first to review them and see if any can be added to the Library collection," explained Karen Oswald, the Book Store's new manager. "Alternately, when the Library weeds out books from their collection, they are given to the Book Store to sell. It is a good partnership for both sides."


Oswald took over management of the store on April 1. However, she was already familiar with the store and many of its volunteers.


"My background is in administration," said Oswald. I've worked as an Executive Assistant at the President and Vice President level most of my career. I worked as an Executive Assistant at Cox Hospital for five and a half years. After that position, I began work at the former Taneyhills Library, now the Library Center of the Ozarks. I was at the desk for two years and had overlapping tasks with both the Thrift Store and the Book Store, so I am coming in with familiarity with the store."


In addition to accepting the position as Book Store Manager, Oswald is President of the Branson Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association, a group of citizens who support the Branson Police Department through fundraising and community promotions. She also volunteers with Elevate Branson and holds a part-time job.


Prior to Oswald's transition into her new position, much of the work in the Book Store fell to Kay Gerken. Kay, who sits on the Friends of the Library Board, served as the President of the Taneyhills Library Board, volunteered in the Library, and spent a great deal of time making sure the Book Store ran smoothly. She was largely responsible for a transformation the Book Store underwent a few years back.


"In 2019, the Book Store manager's health was failing, and the store was needing some reorganization and weeding of books that had been on the shelves too long," Gerken explained. "I took on the project of having three major book sales to give us room to work. During the Covid shutdown, another volunteer, Beth Urich and I revamped the entire Book Store, adding more category sections, signage, etc.  Jen Harmon, the Library Manager, gave us insight and recommendations on how to best display the collections according to the public's interests. I saw my role in the Book Store as a lead volunteer, not really a manager. Many of the volunteers who had been involved with the Book Store many more years than me were willing to pitch in and help with the major book sales. The updating and reorganizing of the Book Store collection was a group effort that paid off with customer compliments and repeat business."


Joyce Coogan, President of the Friends of the Library, shared her thoughts on the Friends of the Library Book Store, noting that there is a stark difference in this store. Said Coogan, "We have works of fiction categorized by author, and works of nonfiction, categorized by major topic or interest. Topics range from gardening to politics, religion, war, health, cooking and much more. In addition, we have a large collection of children's books. One unusual feature of our Book Store is that we have a section for classic and vintage books. Our volunteer clerks welcome customers into the store and help them find the types of books they are interested in. In other words, we function like a full-service book store, but at a greatly reduced price."


Like many book stores, the Friends of the Library Book Store also offers a variety of games and puzzles, as well as a large selection of DVDs available for sale.


The Book Store has a staff of approximately 20 volunteers, who work the desk, checking out customers, as well as sorting donations and shelving books. Oswald has plans to add more volunteers in the near future, as the Book Store continues to grow, and special events are added. The store is always accepting applications for new volunteers.


Gerken noted that past customers have truly enjoyed shopping at the Book Store.


"Many of our repeat customers are tourists that come to the Book Store whenever they come to Branson. They love that it is clean and well organized, with friendly volunteers to assist," said Gerken. "We hope that the residents and visitors alike will continue to come visit the Book Store and see what is new on the shelves."


Oswald plans to keep the store operating in the same manner as in the past.


Said Oswald, "My intention is to get to know my volunteers, listen to their ideas and comments, hear from them what our guests and customers are saying. Based on those discussions, if there is a trend of something that needs changed or fixed, we will. Also, if there is something that is working well, then we can enhance that and use that as a means to bring in more customers. I have had some volunteers already suggest some program ideas that may bring in customers who have never walked through our doors, so we are actively planning those events. You will be seeing more advertising of the Book Store in print and on social media."


The Friends of the Library Book Store is a nonprofit entity.


"Funds from the Book Store will be used toward purchases and projects of the Friends of the Library," Coogan explained. "We are currently assessing how best we can serve the Library Center of the Ozarks, with one idea being to pay for special programs or speakers brought in or held at the Library. Another could be to provide materials for special projects. The Friends will consider many ways to best use the funds to meet the interests and needs of our community."


The Friends of the Library Book Store is located in the lower level of the Library Center of the Ozarks, at 200 South 4th Street in downtown Branson. The store is open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Said Oswald, "If you aren't familiar with the Book Store, please stop in and see for yourself what we have. Also, since it's spring cleaning season, if you have any books in good condition, DVDs, puzzles or games, please consider donating them to us!"

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