2011-02-17 / Community
Book Cellar named in Best of L.A. Awards
The Book Cellar, a nonprofit used bookstore in the basement of the Agoura Hills Library, is a hidden treasure trove that raises funds for the library and donates books to schools, prisons and even other nations.
Cozy and filled to the brim, the Book Cellar once again claimed a spot in L.A. Weekly’s Best of L.A. In the weekly’s 2010 “Best of” edition, the Cellar was named the “Best Excuse to Buy ‘Crime and Punishment.’”
The Cellar won the publication’s “ Best Literary Mine” in the 2008 “ Best of L.A.” edition.
Eric and Diane Haupt have been managing the Book Cellar for years and count on community volunteers from the Friends of the Agoura Hills Library to man the store each week. Eric Haupt said 95 percent of the Cellar’s proceeds support the library. Since California’s economy tanked, the money has been used to bridge the gap left by state budget cuts.
Eric Haupt said he recently wrote a check for $7,000 to renew the library’s subscriptions to newspapers, magazines and other periodicals.
“We’re doing great and we’re only open one day a week,” Eric Haupt said.
The Haupts developed an outreach program for prisons and helped establish a library for inmates through Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Children’s book donations are routinely made to inner city schools throughout Southern California. Teachers have been known to fill classroom bookshelves for a fraction of what the materials would cost new. Many of the children’s books are in such good shape that they appear to be unused.
Haupt said one teacher walked out with seven cases of books for her classroom. Personnel from charter schools and hospitals also troll the store to fill their shelves with books that fit their needs.
Books are also donated beyond the borders of California and the U.S.
“More than 1,400 books were sent to a small town on the outskirts of Tel Aviv in Israel,” Eric Haupt said.
Bibliophiles know all about the Cellar. They saunter in week after week seeking out that special, perhaps out-of-print book that they didn’t even know they wanted until they found it in the stacks.
Penny Taylor said she just moved back to Agoura Hills from Ventura and now visits the Book Cellar nearly every Saturday. She recently purchased “It Doesn’t Take a Hero: The Autobiography of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf” and said it was one of the best autobiographies she had ever read. Better yet, the hardcover book cost her just a buck.
Nicole Meyer has lived in Agoura Hills for six months and is a newcomer to the local treasure trove. An art history major at the University of Colorado, Meyer said the Book Cellar offered “gorgeous old books.”
College students often stop by to see if they can score a textbook for a dollar rather than pay the publisher’s price of $100 or more.
In addition to art tomes, the shelves are packed with fiction, poetry, self- help, history, children’s, theology and psychology books.
Specialty books such as “The Complete Visual Guide to Everything
Sold in Hardware Stores” or “ The Complete Book of Model Railroading” are there for the picking. The store also stocks classic books, biographies, history books, almanacs, plays and study guides for college tests.
If the Cellar doesn’t have what a patron seeks, buyers can sign up for the store’s wish list service, so they can be called when a book they’ve been searching for is donated.
Cellar volunteer Will Perry said the Book Cellar is a great way to promote the city’s library and called the store an Agoura Hills gem.
Books are donated to the Cellar from all over the region, Eric Haupt said. Many people will buy books from the store and then return them to be resold. The cycle can be repeated several times.
Diane Haupt said the location of the Book Cellar may be the secret to the store’s success
“People think that they’re go- ing to a hidden place,” she said.
The lure of the hunt keeps visitors browsing.
Some hope to find a rare, signed first edition book. Diane Haupt said that a book signed by Leon Trotsky, the famous Bolshevik revolutionary, to actor Edward G. Robinson was found at the Book Cellar.
The store is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the basement of the Agoura Hills Library at 29901 Ladyface Court in Agoura Hills. For information, call (818) 889-2278.