Nevada County’s book swap still going strong after nearly a decade |

Nevada County’s book swap still going strong after nearly a decade

Community members check out the selection of free books on offer during the monthly book swap at the Banner Community Guild in this archive photo.
Photo by Liz Kellar/

Know & Go

What: Book Swap

When: 12:30-2:30 p.m., first Sunday of the month

Where: Banner Guild, 12629 McCourtney Road, Grass Valley

Phone: 530-273-8747

Almost 10 years ago, a community book swap launched in the unlikeliest of spaces — a fish market tucked away in a warehouse off Whispering Pines Drive.

Founder Cheryl Noble intended the event — which was to be a free exchange of books, music, movies, magazines and table games — to be a one-time deal. Noble has left Nevada County, but her community book swap is still going strong in its current location, the first Sunday of every month at the Banner Guild.

Back in 2009, Noble told The Union that first book swap was an experiment. She approached several local nonprofits for volunteer help and asked friends to donate some books for inventory. She created tables from saw horses, old sheets of plywood and anything else she could find, and publicized the event, hoping at least a few people would show up that rainy day.

“I threw it out there, kind of kicking the tires,” she said. “Before I even had the boxes packed up, people were asking me when the next one would be.”

According to Noble, the swap has evolved over the years from a means to help survive the recession to a community-minded philosophy of recycling, repurposing and sharing.

Noble said the swap has had some bumps along with way, including finding a permanent home.

“At one point when we were homeless, we held the swap in the front yard of a closed business,” she said. “Anything to keep it going. Volunteers and friends packed up and stored the books in their garages for many months.”

The book swap eventually found a permanent home at the Banner Guild, which took it on as a monthly event.

“Most of the volunteers who came to the first swap in 2009 are still there,” Noble said.

Becky Peabody, the longest-running volunteer at the book swap, took over for Noble when she left the community in 2015. There is a core group of five other volunteers, as well as two or three others who drop in to help set up.

“Each month we get hundreds of swappers,” she said, stressing that you don’t have to bring something to take something. “Some months, we have the Kitchen Sisters playing music during the swap.”

Peabody said cash donations are always welcome and are used to pay the power bill. The swap also is always in need of volunteers — particularly younger folks who don’t mind the labor involved in hauling boxes of books to and fro.

“We post on Facebook monthly asking for volunteer help to set up, from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and break down, from 2:30-3 p.m.,” she said. “The core group arrives at 11:45 a.m. and moves last month’s left-over books, DVDs, magazines and puzzles from the storage room to the tables in the dining hall. We always need help with this — the boxes are heavy.

“Over the past two years, we have had students helping out as part of their community service hours,” Peabody said, adding that anyone who wants to do community service hours with the book swap, including court-ordered service hours, can ask for her during the swap.

“We would love to have authors come out and do readings during the swap,” she said. She also has considered asking another community member to take on a clothing swap in the shared space.

Six-year veteran volunteer Carol Kuhwarth calls the book swap a win-win for everyone.

“It’s a great social outlet for all these people — a lot of seniors come out,” she said. “I guess it’s a great outlet for us, too.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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