Roanoke bookstore provides free books to students during coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Book No Further is making sure Roanoke City students stay busy reading while they’re not in school.

“No matter what’s going on, when you sit down to read a book, you’re somewhere else with other people in the book. It’s wonderful, especially for little kids. They just can’t get enough of books,” says Doloris Vest, owner and manager at Book No Further.

Outside view of Book No Further, located at 112 Market St SE in downtown Roanoke.

Vest and her husband have owned 1,200-square-foot bookstore for over two years. She says it’s been a great experience, but she’s never seen anything like the coronavirus pandemic before.

On March 16, Roanoke City Public Libraries announced their closure to adhere to Gov. Ralph Northam’s state-of-emergency restrictions due to COVID-19.

One week later, the bookstore — located at 112 Market Street SE — closed its doors.

“Traffic was gone, so we decided to close and see what would happen,” says Vest.

Pictured: Doloris Vest, owner and manager of Book No Further.

While the business has seen success with online book sales, Vest says she wanted to do more to help the Roanoke community.

“Bookstores have a different position in the community. It’s retail, and it’s business, but it’s also for culture and comfort. We wanted to make the bookstore a place where people could gather and get information, and we’re taking our gathering online. We’re doing some virtual events, but we want our offerings and the things we do to reflect this community,” says Vest.

The business partnered with Virginia Center for the Book, a program of Virginia Humanities, to provide more than 400 complimentary books for Roanoke City Public School students who have been receiving free meals since schools were closed in March.

Over 5,000 books can be viewed at Book No Further, with a wide-variety of genres.

As part of the “Changing the Narrative” initiative, the books for students in pre-K through 12th grade, include authors and illustrators from diverse backgrounds.

After ordering from five different publishers, the books were delivered to Vest’s home. With help from her husband, she says she took all the precautions when organizing the books.

“Because of the coronavirus, we had really looked at this differently. When they were delivered on our porch, we would wipe down the boxes and then we would leave them for a few hours. Then we would go back and open them and count them and make sure that everything was there. Then we immediately put them in the van so that we didn’t have to move them again,” says Vest.

The selection of books was delivered to the school system on May 6 and will be distributed to students in the next week few weeks by staff and volunteers.

“In better times, I would have liked to deliver them to the schools and let the kids see the big boxes of books, but it was wonderful to see how many [books] there were and what it was going to do for a lot of kids,” says Vest.

She hopes that both parents and students will be able to personally experience owning a book, rather than one you borrow and give back.

“We have a quote on one of our bookmarks from Louis L’Amore, a western writer, that ‘once you read a book, it stays with you forever,’ and I think that’s what happens,” says Vest.

Despite the granted permission for non-essential businesses to reopen under certain restrictions, Vest says she isn’t planning on opening up her bookstore anytime soon, but there have been discussions.

“We may do walk-ins if people come by. We’re definitely keeping it down to less than five people, but we’re still deciding on other precautions like masks, cleaning practices, and possible one-way routes in the store,” says Vest.

Books No Further will reopen Monday, June 1 by appointment-only.

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