AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a 5,000-square-foot shop off Burnet Road lies Recycled Reads, a nonprofit bookstore operated by the Austin Public Library system.

For 14 years, customers have explored donated materials and former items from APL’s collection to try and find their next treasure. It’s a place where first-time customers have since become regulars, said Paola Ferate-Soto, manager of Recycled Reads.

“There’s a couple that comes here on Thursdays, right before they go on a lunch date,” she said. “They come weekly and they have beautiful smiles, always like, ‘I found this, I’m so glad!”

But beyond welcoming familiar faces and offering customers access to gently used finds, the bookstore also assists the city in its Zero Waste by 2040 initiative.

“The ultimate goal is to give a second life to these materials,” Ferate-Soto said.

How does Recycled Reads receive its materials?

An APL spokesperson said many books and items are donated to Recycled Reads, while others come through a process APL calls “weeding.” This is when APL staff go through their collection and remove some items, which are then offered at Recycled Reads.

Weeded items can include new and more current materials, such as books or guides that are updated each year. Others can include materials where there were “more copies in the system than are necessary for circulation,” such as new releases that initially had high demand but have since waned.

What kinds of materials are available at Recycled Reads?

Recycled Reads accepts the following items as donations:

  • Printed materials, except magazines
  • CDs, LPs
  • DVDs, Blu-Rays
  • Art and ephemera
  • Board games, puzzles
  • VHS
  • Audio cassettes

Most items included at Recycled Reads are priced at or below $2. Baby and children books are sold between 25 and 50 cents a pop, Ferate-Soto said.

“This is a place that is very affordable for families,” she said.

Popular items include Recycled Reads’ selections of cookbooks and art books, Ferate-Soto said. Vintage and language books, collectibles as well as arts and crafts pieces also capture many customers’ eyes, she added.

For donations, those can be dropped off during store hours in grocery or reusable bags, as well as standard or smaller-sized boxes. Recycled Reads can accept two small boxes of donations at a time, while residents with larger donations can call ahead at 512-974-7463 to make an appointment.

“I would wish that everybody in Austin knows about this,” Ferate-Soto said. “They donate those materials, and you know, that could be somebody’s else’s treasure.”

What other services are available, besides used books and items?

Recycled Reads also houses APL’s tool library, a resource where library cardholders can check out tools from APL’s system. Those include gardening tools, bike repair kits and extension cords, among others.

Additionally, an APL spokesperson told KXAN Recycled Reads will soon be one of APL’s passport services offices. Passport photo-taking and processing services are expected to be available at Recycled Reads later this spring, joining existing passport services offices at the APL Central Library.

Alongside Recycled Reads, passport services will be coming to APL’s Ruiz and Spicewood Springs branches.

How Recycled Reads help reduce landfill waste

On average, Recycled Reads diverts approximately 47,000 pounds from ending up in landfills each month — equivalent to 23.5 tons of materials.

Last year, Recycled Reads was voted the No. 1 little bookstore in Texas by Yelp users. It’s a title Ferate-Soto said she hopes reflects the value of Recycled Reads’ mission in its efforts to reduce waste ending up in landfills.

“There’s a reason why we are, we have been voted that,” she said. “Not that I can take the credit myself, but this is a wonderful way to recirculate the materials and make people happy, and to help others take care of materials that they can no longer use.”

Know before you go

Recycled Reads is located at 5335 Burnet Road. The bookstore is open from 12-6 p.m. Wednesdays, 12-7 p.m. Thursdays and 12-6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.