Our Public Library

Inside the Friends of the Library bookstore

When we went to the Alabama Book Festival last month we spent some time talking to a librarian in Montgomery’s City-County public library system. She was so persuasive talking to us about the resources available through the library that we turned to each other and said: “Okay, we’ve got to get library cards.”

That we have lived in Montgomery for two years without getting library cards is bad enough; that we are the biggest book lovers we know and have a house full of books (not to mention that we support the role of government in providing services that improve the common good), well, it seems to make this worse somehow. It took us a little while, but recently we did make our first trip to the Juliette Hampton Morgan Memorial Library on High Street.

An Alabama Historical Association sign outside the library informed us about the library’s namesake. You can read a longer version here. This branch was apparently built in 1991, although to be honest it looks like it might be a little bit older. There is a column outside that seems to have been taken from the building downtown where the order to fire on Fort Sumter was given.

Inside, to the left, is the Friends of the Library used bookstore. This is less a store than a few shelves and a few discount tables. But we were in heaven browsing through the selection and had to tear ourselves away so that we could see the rest of the library while on our lunch break. We bought eleven books for $10.10. Eleven great books in beautiful condition. Shopping for used books is a pastime second only to reading in our house, and one of the few bad things about living in Montgomery is the dearth of used book stores (by our count, your options are basically Trade N Books or New South, the latter’s selection being eclectic and generally unaffordable for our budget). We were thrilled at the selection, condition and prices (paperbacks 25 cents, hardbacks $2) of the books at Friends of the Library. As small as it is, we think it might be Montgomery’s best used bookstore, at least until we finish picking it over.

Inside, the library is cool and open and comfortable. There is snazzy neon over the doors leading to the fiction and children’s sections downstairs and a really neat open-frame spiral staircase leading upstairs to the non-fiction and reference sections, as well as the “micrographics” room. In that room we were pleased to find that the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature is still produced in hard copy (told you we’re nerds). Also they still have microfilm readers! In the reference room we found the librarian from the Book Festival who inspired us to visit and we thanked her.

Even though the library system’s website looks like it might have been designed on Geocities, Midtown’s closest branch (the main branch!) is welcoming and warm, with staff eager to help you find just the right book and a used bookstore that just might be the best in the city.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a dog, a cat, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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  1. Elizabeth says:

    There’s actually a new used book store (if that’s not a contradiction in terms!) named The Book Cellar near the corner of Taylor and Vaughn in the same shopping center as the Rave Theater. They don’t have nearly the volume Trade ‘n’ Books does, but are better organized, in my opinion. There also used to be another used book store in town named The Book Nook on Norman Bridge Road, but I don’t think they’re open any longer.

    And you’re right about the age of the building; it’s been there much longer, but was extensively renovated in 1991. (I was at Baldwin at the time, and spent countless hours there!) The original entrance was on Lawrence Street, then it was the McDonough Street Library during renovations, then received its new name after the renovations were completed. There are several levels of stacks below the fiction room, but are kept closed due to problems with water leakage, mold, mildew, etc.

    Thanks for the post — it’s fun seeing my neighborhood through a new set of eyes!

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