The dominant sentiment at an at the popular Book Exchange at the El Cerrito Recycling Center was that something should be done to stop greedy book-sellers who grab large numbers of the best books to resell and who intimidate other patrons seeking volumes for their personal reading pleasure.
The city, which is inviting public input on a set of draft rules to foster mutual respect and equal access for all users of the Book Exchange, convened a community meeting Wednesday afternoon that drew 17 members of the public.
"I'm one who stopped using it because I got turned off by aggressive people," said one woman who came to the meeting, which was held at the Book Exchange's interim home at the site. The recycling center is being rebuilt, and the Book Exchange was relocated temporarily to the outer edge of the construction site.
Anyone can drop their unwanted books off at the Book Exchange, and anyone can take books away. When the new recycling center is completed, the Book Exchange will move into expanded quarters under a new name, the Exchange Zone, which will accept additional items that can be reused, including art and school supplies, CDs, and tools, among others.
The city posted a set of rules at the interim Book Exchange several months ago, saying, for example, “SHARE ACCESS to new donations – do not monopolize.” The rules, however, gradually disappeared because they were attached to the part of a canvas canopy that was rolled up (though it was unrolled Wednesday by a man who attended the meeting and wanted to see them). The complete list can be found at the bottom of this article.
The woman who said she had stopped using the Book Exchange also said she was dubious that such rules telling people to share and be nice would solve the problem.
Another woman asked, "How do you police people who don't have common decency?"
A man asked, "It is it a readers' community, or it is a book-sellers' access?"
Garth Schultz, an environmental analyst for the city who manages the recycling center and who conducted the meeting, said the rules are subject to revision and probably need some changes, both before the new center opens and afterward. He said he welcomes comments and suggestions from the public at 510-559-7684 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
At present, there is no rule banning those who want to take books for resale, he said.
"My goal is to try to balance the needs of all current users," he said. "...It needs everybody to work together to come to a mutually agreeable outcome."
During an informal discussion after the meeting broke up, Heather Frey, an online book-seller, suggested consideration of an association or agreement involving the book-sellers who use the exchange to establish rules that they would be willing to observe.
In related news, the Book Exchange must leave its current interim location as of next Monday, Dec. 5, because of the ongoing construction. The city earlier said it would then be suspended until the new facility opens, but Schultz said Wednesday that a minimal Book Exchange – consisting only of the large book bin without the bookcases – would continue to operate in a new temporary location next to the Goodwill trailer's interim home.
The spot for dropping off bottles, cans and other recyclable materials also will be moved Dec. 5 to the easternmost end of Schmidt Lane, next to the eastern edge of the construction site for the new recycling center.
Opening for new recycling center
The new recycling center is expected to be completed some time in February, said Melanie Mintz, the city's environmental services manager. Most of the infrastructure will be finished in January, but new water mains won't be finished until the following month, she said. There's some possibility that the center could begin partial operation in January, she said.
The center's administration building will be delivered in pre-fabricated parts Friday morning, she said.
The recently drafted rules
The rules that Schultz were posted a few months are divided into two parts, one for the recycling center as a whole and the other for the Exchange Zone:
City of El Cerrito Recycling Center
Rules of Conduct
In order to create a welcoming and safe community environment, please:
- Be COURTEOUS, COOPERATIVE, and RESPECTFUL to other patrons, staff, and neighbors
- Drop off items in their DESIGNATED BINS OR AREAS ONLY, no trash or discarded materials outside the bins
- DO NOT drop off items that do not have designated bins or areas (see the information center or office for a list of resources)
- DO NOT take recyclable items from bins without staff permission
- DO NOT get in or move any bins, containers or other equipment
- SUPERVISE your children and leave pets in your car or at home
- NOTIFY staff of any issues and call 911 in case of emergency
- Drop-off area parking is limited to 20 minutes – for longer durations park on Schmidt Lane
Patrons adhering to this conduct will help us operate the El Cerrito Recycling Center as a premier environmental service. Please notify recycling center personnel about any concerns in regards to discourteous users.
City of El Cerrito Recycling Center
Exchange Zone Rules
This Exchange Zone is intended as a community resource, and as such users agree to:
- Be FAIR, COOPERATE, and promote COMMUNITY behavior
- Give PLENTY OF ROOM for others to browse and donate items comfortably
- SHARE ACCESS to new donations – do not monopolize
- Follow all other City of El Cerrito Recycling Center Rules of Conduct
Correction: The first mention of El Cerrito Environmental Analyst Garth Schultz in the original version of this article incorrectly gave his last name as Hudson. It has been corrected.