Jan Martin shelves books Tuesday at Rogue Book Exchange in downtown Medford. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore - Julia Moore

Rogue Book Exchange moves to new digs

A free book exchange is putting more than 10,000 books on shelves this week as organizers move into a new storefront on Ivy Street near downtown Medford.

Volunteers with the nonprofit Rogue Book Exchange hope a new location with more space will attract a fresh set of customers to the free store.

"It's going to be absolutely awesome," said Jan Martin, volunteer coordinator for the organization and a member of the board.

The book exchange, which allows customers to drop off books and pick up new ones at no charge, was created in 2007 when funding was cut for local libraries.

Libraries were closed for six months that year, after a $23 million shortfall in the county budget threatened numerous public resources.

The county ultimately outsourced library operations to a Maryland company and was able to reopen the county's 15 branches with limited hours.

Martin said that although the organization was created when libraries were closed in 2007, the Rogue Book Exchange continues to serve a purpose as a cheap way for people to share media such as books, movies and music.

"The public still needed a place for accessing media," said Martin.

Organizers also wanted to create a way to recycle books that might otherwise be thrown away.

At the time, the volunteers moved into a small warehouse that shared a wall with an auto mechanic shop at 2660 Bullock Road.

"There were no windows, and the auto fumes would come from next door," said Martin. "It was kind of a scary place to go. We didn't get a lot of foot traffic."

Even so, the operation has grown each year.

"It all grew by word of mouth," said Martin. "We see people from all walks of life."

The store is operated on a break-even approach, with monthly rent paid by selling some top-quality donated books online and selling a few nearly new books in the store for $1 to $2, Martin said.

The store is run almost entirely by a group of 10 regular volunteers, and the organization is always looking for more help.

In addition to getting leftover books from library book sales, Martin said donations pour in by the truckload each week, causing the small warehouse to run out of room to house all the books.

Five years after opening the exchange, Martin said organizers are ready for a larger location. The old, 1,500-square-foot warehouse is being replaced by a 3,200-square-foot space at 110 N. Ivy St., near downtown Medford between Fifth and Sixth streets. The site is a little more than a block north of City Hall.

"We have significantly outgrown the space," said Martin, who has organized volunteers to help move books and build shelving over the past week in the new location.

Martin said the new storefront is bright and airy, and the organization was able to get a good deal through Medford's Pulver and Leever Real Estate.

"They bent over backwards and accommodated us," said Martin. "They're very interested in the program."

During the move, volunteers are needed to process books and other media, assess their worth and shelve the materials.

Martin plans to hold a "soft" opening at the new location by Monday, with a grand opening later.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or

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