Hello Book Thing Supporters,
We owe you a hibernation update!
Bad news first: The Book Thing remains closed with no prospect of any public openings or general volunteer events until after the current public health emergency measures have been rescinded.
Early last week, we were on the verge of announcing a special public opening for March, but we delayed the post. Given growing concerns about community transmission of COVID-19, we were worried that it would be irresponsible to entice people out with the promise of free books.
At our special opening in February, we gave away more than 20,000 books in just 8 hours. That’s 42 books per minute! A team of volunteers signed out 1,014 parties. Since many of those entries represented couples or families, we estimate there were at least 2,000 patrons at The Book Thing that day. People drove in from all our neighboring states and beyond. Bragging rights for the longest trip went to a visitor from Seattle, WA. Since Feb 15th, many people have reached out on Facebook or via email, eager to know when the next opening will be. But with the pandemic hanging heavy on our minds, everything that made February a success has more recently felt like a huge liability.
The difficult decision was taken out of our hands: on March 12th, Maryland’s Governor Hogan announced major actions to protect public health, including a prohibition on gatherings of more than 250 people at all locations and venues. That definitely includes us, so there will be no special public opening until the prohibition is lifted.
Here are some of the other things that have been keeping us busy:
- Our overdue tax paperwork from 2016 and 2017 is being finalized, and 2018 is in progress. As we’ve mentioned before, filing these returns as a package is one of the requirements for getting our nonprofit status back.
- The Board continues to make progress on administrative tasks and has begun digging deeper into financials. We’re also looking at everything from volunteer policies to inventory management.
- Operating at a bare skeleton staff is allowing us to save up a buffer to cover the fees associated with nonprofit reinstatement.
- Our second general public volunteer event and new volunteer orientation was almost twice as big as the first: on Feb. 22, more than fifty people turned out to contribute 170 hours of labor!
- We’re still restocking the bookshelves for our friends across the street at Peabody Heights Brewery. Stop by when the taproom is open to support a neighborhood business and maybe pick up a few books.
Bonnie Hoppa, a former staff member who stepped into the void as our executive director last summer, has moved on and is no longer with The Book Thing. The Board of Directors thanks her for her hard work helping put TBT on a more sustainable path, and wishes her the best in her future endeavors.
In the next month, we will continue to work on the nonprofit reinstatement and on Board matters. We still hope to file our overdue tax returns and our application for nonprofit reinstatement in April, unless our accountant advises us otherwise. After that, we’ll be waiting for an IRS ruling, but we don’t know how long that might take. All our plans for public events — such as additional volunteer trainings and at least one special opening per month during hibernation — are on hold until local public health emergency measures have been lifted.
What can you do?
- Do you have ideas for how we can safely give away books during this time of social distancing and public health measures? Do you know a place that would like to host “satellite” bookshelves? Please contact us!
- If you can, please donate. Your financial support will help us to pay for professional tax/legal advice.
- If you have fundraising or grant writing expertise, we’d love to hear from you via the Contact form. We want to be ready to seek out appropriate levels of nonprofit sponsorship as soon as we’re eligible to do so.
- If you have prior Board experience and/or relevant expertise, please reach out. We are still collecting expressions of interest and have not yet begun Board development activities. Experience with strategy, non-profit management, accounting, fundraising, legal counsel, and the like is particularly valuable.
- Please stay tuned. We will continue to use our website and social media to keep you informed of our progress.
Be healthy, book lovers! If there’s one up-side to social distancing, it’s that it makes a great excuse to stay home and read.
Please direct all inquiries about this statement to the Board of Directors via the Contact form on our website.
To donate, you can:
Mail a check to:
The Book Thing
3001 Vineyard Lane
Baltimore, MD 21218
Please Note: Due to the revocation of our nonprofit status, donations made after 5/15/19 may not be tax-deductible. Please consult a tax professional.