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'Keep the change': Volunteers brew up smiles for library regulars

'When you retire, you have to be careful to not sit at home and do nothing. It's important to keep moving, keep your mind going,' says Masa Sone
Masa Sone (left) and Anne Hole run the little cafe inside the Barrie Public Library's downtown branch once a week every Saturday

Regulars at the little cafe inside the Barrie Public Library's downtown branch are happy it has reopened and are showing their appreciation to the volunteers behind the counter.

"It always surprises me how generous customers are. They come, buy something and say to keep the change. It really amazes me. They are usually very pleasant," said Masa Sone, who runs the library’s coffee shop once a week every Saturday.

The cafe sells coffee and light refreshments for $1 to $2, tax included, with all proceeds going to support library programs and services.

Sone told BarrieToday that patrons stopping in to grab a coffee at the cafe are ramping back up after it was closed for nearly two years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"A lot of regulars to the library just started picking up something here because they're allowed to eat and drink inside while reading or using their computers," she said. 

Sone, who volunteered with the English Conversation program prior to the pandemic, noted that the cafe's closure was heartbreaking for the staff and library community.

“I remember we used to give away coffee or tea coupons to the participants of the English Conversation circle and they were so popular," she said. 

Anne Hole, who takes the shift after Sone’s, said that, surprisingly, the most popular item sold at the cafe are used books, particularly softcover books.

“I don't know why. I find it interesting because you can just borrow a book for free and return it to the library," she said. "But some people seem to want to buy them.”

Hole remembers one time when a lady bought 30 books, both hardcover and paperback.

“I couldn't help myself from asking why she was buying those books and she said that was for a film that would be shot in Toronto. But she couldn’t tell me what the film was about," she added. 

The books, along with DVDs, CDs, and magazines, come from donations to the library and the cafe. They sit on a shelf just next to the counter and are sold for $1 each.

Having volunteered with local services including dragon-boat racing, elections and the local food bank, Hole said she didn’t think twice when asked to help bring the library cafe to life.

“Volunteering is very meaningful for me. I’m retired, so I have the time for it. Also, my co-ordinator is a wonderful person and she makes me feel important, which is very helpful," she said. 

Also retired, Sone said the social part is one of the most important reasons why she volunteers.

“When you retire, you have to be careful to not sit at home and do nothing," she said. "It's important to keep moving, keep your mind going.”

The Barrie Public Library is the perfect place for retirees looking for to stay active, Sone said.

“They have so many programs here that you could volunteer every day of the week if you want to," she added. 

The cafe operates Monday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The menu includes coffee, hot chocolate, tea, water, juice, and pop, as well as cookies, muffins, candy bars, potato chips and more.