top of page

A glorious rainbow of books at Bookends, Pack Library’s used book store

Wide view of Book stacks at Asheville library

Summer spreads her golden light, beckoning us with warm breezes and sun-drenched dreams to climb out of our boxes and head into the sunlight. We walk through the forest, skip lightly by the stream and pause, listening to the music of nature. If we’re observant enough, we might see Swallows nesting under eaves, feeding their babies making a fuss, drawing the neighbor cat’s attention.

This is reality, but for those of us with a love of the written word, books can take us into the world of summer … even if it’s not. And who doesn’t have a fond childhood memory of sitting under an ancient Elm, her limbs spread wide in comfort and grace, as we lose ourselves in a good book?

Daydreams aside, books take us to fascinating places, opening our eyes to the cultures and landscapes of the countries of the world. Or, books may teach us how, in the seeming randomness of the natural world, we find mathematical order based on Fibonacci numbers and the Golden Ratio.

Libraries are the repositories of vast amounts of knowledge and information and in Buncombe County, the public library system consists of the main library and 11 branch libraries, one located within fairly close proximity to every resident. A Law Library, housed in the County Courthouse, is also available to the public and the legal community.

In addition, Buncombe County is fortunate enough to have a grand used book store, Bookends, as part of the Pack Memorial Library, the county’s central branch.

While libraries, such as they were, date back to the earliest of times, they originally consisted mainly of archives of early forms of writing, such as transactions captured on clay tablets or temple records on the papyrus of Ancient Egypt. As long ago as 700 BC, a discovery in Nineveh showed an actual library classification system in use.

In the US, the first library was founded in 1701 as part of the Anglican church. Public libraries with books available to members or through subscriptions would soon follow. The first free public library was started in New Hampshire in 1833, and quickly became the norm.

Since libraries are free and open to the public, they count on a variety of public and private sources for funding. Funds support the acquisition of new and classic fiction, nonfiction and reference books, audio books, eBooks, music and movies, art prints, magazines and newspapers, as well as other electronic material. Librarians and other staff support the operations of the library system.

Library book shelf in front of a window

Pack Memorial is the largest library, with more than 150,000 items available for review and checkout. Their Sondley Reference Department provides a vast amount of research materials from reports and literary criticism to homework help.

Numerous events are also sponsored by Buncombe County libraries. Open to the public, these events provide valuable information, services or activities for all ages. At Pack, the Lord Auditorium is a 150-seat facility often used for events. It’s available for public use during library hours, but must be reserved in advance.

A variety of collections, such as the North Carolina Collection with its local history and genealogy resources, and the Thomas Wolfe Collection honoring Asheville’s favorite son, sets the Pack Library apart. Friends of the Pack Library provide key financial support to help fund necessary items or events that may fall outside of the library’s annual budget.

Friends organizations are prolific throughout America’s library system and sometimes include used book stores, like Bookends. The Pack Friends group includes volunteers who manage the used book store located just inside of the Pack Library in downtown Asheville. Through the sale of gently used books of all genres, as well as other items such as Audio Books, CDs, DVDs, comic books and graphic novels, Bookends supports the library financially.

Bookends depends on the generosity of the public. It gets its books, music and movies through donations, as well as items withdrawn from the library’s system. These are then sold at very reasonable prices with the funds raised benefiting the library, and consequently the community. For those with large collections, Pack Friends will often assist with packing and transporting the books to the library. It’s a partnership that runs full circle.

The Pack Friends call the first Friday of every month “Frugal Friday.” On these days, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., you will find books galore in the entryway of the Pack Memorial Library, where you can get even better deals on books and other items from the book store for just 25 cents or $2.00 a box. Children’s books and a few others are sold for 10 cents. It’s great for everyone and provides an opportunity to restock the shelves with additional items.

Other fundraisers and book sales are held throughout the year and are always posted online and at the library. Libraries are and will continue to be extremely crucial to our society. With digital books on the rise and as more and more information is made accessible through our laptops and cell phones, libraries continue to evolve. They offer new and varied services, such as online checkout of digital books and much more.

older man peruses a library book

Libraries provide a solid foundation for access to knowledge. It is a foundation on which we as a society is built. Bringing our young people into a vast repository of actual books, allowing them to touch their pages, brings reading to life. Teaching the importance of reading to children at an early age instills in them a curiosity that will stay with them for their entire lives, helping them to turn information into knowledge … and knowledge into wisdom.

Libraries mean different things to different people, but for those who love and support libraries, the world would be a very different place without them. Dr Maya Angelou is one who actually credited a library with saving her life as a child. She called a library “a rainbow in the clouds.”

“Information belongs to everyone,” she said in an interview with the New York Public Library when they acquired Dr Angelou’s papers in October 2010. “Information helps you to see that you’re not alone. That there’s somebody in Mississippi and somebody in Tokyo who all have wept, who’ve all longed and lost, who’ve all been happy. So the library helps you to see, not only that you are not alone, but that you’re not really any different from everyone else. There may be details that are different, but a human being is a human being.”

Bookends is open to the public inside the Pack Memorial Library at 67 Haywood Street in downtown Asheville during regular library hours: Monday - Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Payment for your used books and more can be made (cash only) at the library’s front desk.

Buncombe County residents or property owners can obtain a free library card with appropriate identification, which enables them to borrow, renew or request materials from any Buncombe County library branch. Also, individuals with library cards have access to books from libraries in other counties that participate in the NC Cardinal Program.

For more information on Bookends, visit their Facebook page at: For information about the Buncombe County Library system, go to:

bottom of page