As the Chair of the Friends of the Lawrence Library, Stan Ring is the King of the Mountain. In this metaphor, though, the mountain is composed of the 4,000 books and media items donated on average each week and accumulating inside the Friends donation box.
Method behind the mountains
Stan has a way of streamlining the whole process, and he does his job with a twinkle in his eye, a diplomatic style, and a knack for helping to raise unprecedented levels of donations to the library, along with a full court of hardworking volunteers.
If Stan had a mantra, it would most certainly be this:
“The more books you’ve got, the more sales you make,” he says.
The statement is beguilingly simple, though. In practice, the work that the Friends undertake– intake, sort, clean, scan, price, then shelve, store, or list the item online — is no simple exercise.
Stan knows both sides of the coin — both the necessary logistical maneuvering and the diplomacy rituals involved in managing groups of people — through his work as a mechanical engineer for Hallmark and a program coordinator for the Douglas County Extension of Master Gardeners.
“I’ve got a lot of experience,” he admits. “And I like to use that experience.”
Stan’s retired engineer’s outlook is indeed a valuable asset when you’re in the business of being the head bookmonger in charge of a sizable and eclectic crew of bookmongers/volunteers.
“Being the board chair means being an ombudsman, a gatekeeper, an avid listener, a middle man, a resolver,” says Stan. “You’ve got to make all the parts work together as a whole.”
Together with Angela Hyde, Friends Coordinator, and fellow committee members and volunteers, Stan is forever scheming logistics surrounding volunteer workflows, ways to leverage each item for best chance of sale, and finagling new configurations to jam-pack books into every available nook and cranny to prep for the next big sale just around the bend.
Video: Stan and league of volunteers set up the mobile bookstore, raising piles of funds for the Lawrence Public Library.
Legions of volunteers = Legendary book sales
Thousands of bargain-hunters flock to the quarterly book sales. At the recent hotter-than-heck Summer sale, crowds lingered to read spines on the A-frame shelves Stan devised and built specifically for volunteers’ ease of setup and customers’ ease of browsing.
Annamarie Hill, Chair of the Book Sales, presided over the cash table while shoppers milled about the Kentucky street circle drive in the shade of the cantilever and weaved through the air-conditioned labyrinth of the Friends’ storage-space-turned-bookstore, reaping the benefits of Stan and colleagues’ hard work.
“Stan is knowledgeable about all kinds of things,” says Annamarie. “He’s always looking for ways to improve the customer experience and make more sales, which is important when you’re getting thousands of donations a week.”
“He’s got a great sense of humor,” adds Angela, breaking for a moment from her rounds to wax appreciative for Stan’s contributions to the team. “And leadership skills. That’s a good combination.”
If this past weekend’s summer sale is any indication, the many cooks in the Friends kitchen have struck upon an unforgettable recipe.
Sales toppled records of summer sales past, reaping a total of $22,300 to donate to the library for innovative programming, equipment and collections updates, and services designed to meet literacy needs throughout the community.
That’s up by more than $1,000 over 2017, and $7,000 from 2016.
Beyond the thrill of being able to raise such numbers for the library, Stan says volunteering in general can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
“Volunteering is just the humanitarian thing to do; it’s in our nature to help others,” he says.
But volunteering among books and bibliophiles isn’t all sacrifice. Stan chooses to devote his free time to book-lugging because of a love of reading, of course.
“I love to read,” Stan says. “My family, too, we’ve been readers forever.” Books are an ever-present object in his memories of raising children, he explains, and today, he enjoys taking his grandkids to the library to stock up. “Even though we set a limit, they always reach the limit and will take the books home and read, read, read, or ask Grandpa to read. It’s a way for them to expand their scope and learn about the world.”
Stan’s humor, lifelong reader proclivities, good-natured mischievousness, and engineer’s pragmatism have found a good home in the Friends. A quick smile springs forth when he says why he likes volunteering for the Friends:
“It’s a clean, air conditioned place where we all have a lot of fun together, we really do. We laugh and joke around, and we’re good at what we do,” Stan says.
Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he leans in to whisper almost conspiratorially, “And you’ll take home more books than you can read in a lifetime! So, bring them back. We take returns, 24-7.”