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‘Friends’ seeking books and more for major fundraiser

The late Robert Hullivan was an active member of the Friends of the Westfield Athenaeum and worked tirelessly on its annual book sale. This spring, the event has been renamed to the Robert Hullivan Memorial Spring Book Sale. (File photo)

WESTFIELD-Since moving to the city in 2009, Heidi Cassell and her family have found the Westfield Athenaeum to be an invaluable resource. As a way to pay it forward in Cassell’s eyes, she and two “friends” are co-chairing the annual book sale next month to ensure that funds are raised to support important programs offered throughout the year.

“I love everything about the Westfield Athenaeum,” said Cassell. “I love the feel of the building and especially the staff members who are terrific to work with.”

Cassell noted that since she has used the services of the Athenaeum “a lot” over the years, she wanted to find a way to keep vital programs sustainable.

“I joined the Friends of the Westfield Athenaeum in order to support the library,” said Cassell, noting when she first arrived in the city, using the Athenaeum’s Internet access and computers were critical until she could set up those resources in her new home.

“The library has so many important resources,” said Cassell. “Over the years I have also participated in the book club, attended concerts, and enjoyed the Monday night discussion groups.”

The major fundraiser of the Friends group is its annual spring book sale and in April, Cassell will be joined by co-chairs Claire Rogers and Nancy Stefanik, also Friends members, in overseeing the endeavor.

“We have all worked at the fall children’s book and toy sale but this is our first year as chairs of the annual book sale,” said Cassell.

Cassell added that the name of the book sale has been changed to the Robert Hullivan Memorial Spring Book Sale to recognize one of the group’s longtime board members, Robert Hullivan.

“Robert was a board member and had been the book sale co-chair the last couple of years,” said Cassell. “He was also very active in the book sale and when he passed away last November we felt this was the best way to honor him.”

Cassell and her co-chairs are hopeful that beginning March 25 through April 19, area residents will consider donating clean, gently used books, CD’s and DVD’s – appropriate for all ages – for the sale which is slated April 25-27 in the Athenaeum’s Lang Auditorium. Drop-off locations within the Athenaeum include the Boys and Girls Library and near the circulation desk just inside the front door.

“We don’t accept textbooks, condensed books, magazines or encyclopedias,” said Cassell, noting there will not be pick-ups of books or drop-off opportunities in the front parking area of the Athenaeum this year.

Book sale hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on April 25; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 26, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 27. A special preview night is slated April 24 from 4 to 8 p.m. for members of the Friends group and educators who are asked to bring proof of education status.

Cassell added that anyone joining the Friends group for the first time on preview night will receive a $5 coupon toward their book purchases. The annual cost for membership in the Friends group is $10. Also, educators attending the preview will receive a $5 coupon.

“We are hoping the new promotion will stimulate interest in our group,” said Cassell, noting that the current membership is approximately 234 area residents.

Another “special” is on April 27 when patrons can “fill their bags for a donation,” said Cassell. 

“We’ve done this special in the past and it is a way for us to sell the books and it is less to pack up since we have a small storage space for books that are leftover,” she added.

Hard cover books will be priced at $1 unless there is a “special” reason a book may be priced higher because of an autograph or it is considered “rare.” Paperback and soft cover books will be priced at 50 cents each.

“Books will be grouped in categories including nonfiction, fiction, travel, cooking, self-help, religious and more,” said Cassell, noting that teens active at the Athenaeum will also be assisting the women by emptying boxes of books and sorting donations.

“The teens will be a big help to us,” said Cassell.

In the coming weeks,  Cassell, Rogers and Stefanik are hopeful that once again, area residents will make donations to ensure a successful fundraiser.

“The money raised goes toward the Athenaeum’s summer reading program,” said Cassell. “We know how important it is for children to have a good summer reading program and especially take an interest in reading at an early age.”

Daniel Paquette, director of the Westfield Athenaeum, echoed those sentiments.

“The Friends of the Westfield Athenaeum work hard every year to raise funds to support the programs and services of the library,” said Paquette. “The book sale is their largest annual event and it helps to fund our Summer Reading Program, our museum passes, special performers and events, and many more things that we would not be able to provide to Westfield without their dedication and support.”

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