Friends of the Library organizations around the world are well known for their used book sales, big and small. The Friends of the Chattanooga Public Library are going even bigger than most with a used book sale in a twenty-four-hour location—their local airport. The Friends are opening Sky Lib, a bookstore at Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport that will operate on the honor system, with no staff to watch the books or collect money. Customers will pay the three- to five-dollar book cost either into a secured cash box, with a credit card on the Friends’ website, or by picking up an envelope to mail in a check. All proceeds from the bookstore will go to support the Chattanooga Public Library.
The store’s supply of books will come from discarded Chattanooga Public Library books or books donated to the Friends of the Library for their regular book sales. The Friends plan to rotate the books out weekly to start and adjust their schedule according to the store’s needs. With retail space limited and bookstores closing locations, it’s hard to get a book vendor into a regional airport, said William Sundquist, chair of the Friends of the Chattanooga Public Library. Working with the airport, the Friends were able to fill that need in a 500-square-foot space (formerly, a TSA office) adjacent to the ticket counter. The lease will cost $1,800 for the year.
Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport had almost 400,000 passengers on its airplanes last year, and Sundquist hopes the bookstore will reach about 10 percent of those users. Having a location outside of the security gates means that the bookstore can also be accessed by people who are not boarding planes on a given day. Although the most obvious function of the bookstore is fundraising, having the store at the airport will also be great advertising for the Friends and the library. “Unique to Chattanooga is that about 80 percent of the travelers that fly out of Chattanooga are repeat business customers, so this is a good way to promote libraries, in general, to the business community and local community,” Sundquist said.
The Friends are planning a soft launch for the Sky Lib at the end of June, with a grand opening to follow in late July or early August.