Orchard Park librarian creates student-led nonprofit bookstore

CIC COM 1212 Quakenbooks 2
Students browse the selection at the QuakenBOOKS shop. (Submitted photo)

By Desiree Williams

Liz Quakenbush spends her free time collecting books, and for 19 years, she held an annual book sale at the beginning of each school year to help boost her students’ home libraries. However, she felt that she could do more.

“The socioeconomics of my school have changed compared to 20 years ago, and I felt that having one week of giving away two books and letting them buy books was not meeting the needs of my students here at my school,” said Quakenbush, media specialist at Orchard Park Elementary.

CIC COM 1212 Quakenbooks 1

Quakenbush collaborated with students to come up with something that would better fit those needs. She created a nonprofit bookstore called QuakenBOOKS that is open all year and offers books for 50 cents or less, with the money going back into the store. Students can donate spare change to the money jar to help other students who can’t purchase books.

“If you don’t get (students) enthusiastic and excited about reading at this age, elementary, then you can lose them,” Quakenbush said. “So, I’m trying my best to make sure that these kids have the opportunity to read books and become better readers.”

Because she is just the sponsor, students act as the employees. Each class has two designated cashiers, one bagger and one stocker. Cashiers are trained and must use mental math. During the last 10 to 15 minutes of class, the store is open for students to use.

Quakenbush said they have sold more than 8,000 books and given away more than 5,000 since the store opened in March 2016. Of those books, 1,000 were given away because of student donations to the money jar.

At the most recent QuakenBOOKS event Sept. 30, approximately 1,700 books were sold. The next event is planned for after winter break.

“I’m very very proud of the students and happy that they’re excited,” she said. “As I said, I think it’s my legacy.”