ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — David Schneider has always loved books.
He even owned his own bookstore for a decade but he never imagined he would spend his retirement years in the basement of a library.
But that’s exactly what he’s been doing for the last four years as a volunteer for the Albuquerque and Bernalillo County library system.
And he’s happy about it.
His volunteer efforts have helped the library raise thousands of dollars since he began four years ago.
Schneider, who has a degree in business management, runs the Friends for the Public Library eBay page where they sell rare books donated by the public.
Schneider owned an electronics company for 30 years. In 1997, he and his wife decided to open a book store near the University of New Mexico. They would keep the doors open for a decade and during that time, Schneider educated himself on how to spot rare books.
Whenever a book comes along that looks valuable, volunteers hand it over to Schneider. He has a small work station, which is a small table with a computer, crammed between the mounds, shelves and bins of books. He monitors the eBay website and does his research there as well.
The Friends is a nonprofit organization whose members raise money for the library. The group’s main source of income comes from books the public and other organizations donate to the library system. The books are sold at a monthly sale for a few dollars a piece.
However, Schneider said there are some books worth much more than spare change. One of his greatest finds was a first edition of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain that sold for $3,200.
The library has more than 300 books for sale on eBay ranging in price from $50 to $2,250. Some are rare because they are first editions, others because they are signed and some are centuries old giving them a hefty price tag.
They currently have a Book of Genesis listed for $2,250. The volume was translated from Greek to Old Slavic around 1790.
The book store shuttered in 2007 and Schneider eventually sold his electronics business. A friend suggested he try the library, saying his knowledge of local history and books would make him an asset.
“I needed a retirement job,” he said. “I got a temporary job here in the genealogy (department) doing research (at the Downtown library).”
The temporary job ended after four years and he began volunteering for the Friends at the main library.
“I would always sneak down to look at the books (being donated),” he said. “It’s unbelievable the books that come down that chute.”
The Friends sort the donated books then organize them on shelves in the basement, which is where Schneider has his work station.
Schneider’s other interest is local history. His book store specialized in Southwest history and anthropology.
“When I came here (Albuquerque) in ’63 to go to school, it was interesting,” he said. “When I ask people where they were from they wouldn’t say Albuquerque. They would say Alameda, or Pajarito, or some other area of town.”
Schneider began researching and compiling historical information about the city’s distinct neighborhood areas and has even given talks about the subject.
This has also made him an asset to the library.
“He has a real knowledge of local history,” said Lisa Kindrick, a librarian in the genealogy department. “He is very well versed. He helped a lot of people who were coming here doing research on their New Mexico families.”
Schneider has said working at the library changed his life. It exposed him to all walks of life and what it felt like to work for one common goal.
“You leave your ego at the door when you come to this library,” he said. “It’s all for one and one for all. Everyone is so eager to help one another and delight the patron by giving them the information they want or need.”