Saturday, February 28, 2009

Thank you, Joe's Inn!

Thanks to Michael at Joe’s Inn in the Fan
for become a Books on Wheels Spring Tour Sponsor!!
Eat Joe’s Baked Spaghetti at:

205 N. Shields Ave.
Richmond, VA 23220

Friday, February 27, 2009

Books on Prisoners: Louisiana

We will be donating a bunch of adult books to Louisiana Books to Prisoners on Sunday April 5th. Really great work at getting literature to prisoners in the state of Louisiana and are completely not-for-profit. Check out the organization here:
Louisiana Books to Prisoners

"About Books 2 Prisoners

New Orleans Books 2 Prisoners is a 100% not-for-profit effort to correspond with Louisiana inmates and to mail them reading materials free of cost. Our short-term goals are to encourage literacy, to make prison-life more endurable, and to support prisoner interests to the best of our ability. It is not our place to necessarily “radicalize” prisoners, but rather to use our resources/privileges as the un-incarcerated to pass along materials on requested subjects.

If you have a loved one locked up, please have them write us a letter describing what books they are interested in:

Books 2 Prisoners
1631 Elysian Fields #117
New Orleans, LA 70117

Books 2 Prisoners’ new worknight now takes place on Sundays at 4:00 pm, at Nowe Miasto (223 Jane Place).

Books 2 Prisoners needs your support! We can always use book donations (especially dictionaries), wrapping materials (especially packing tape), and of course postage money. Please get in touch.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does an inmate get books from Books 2 Prisoners?

First they write us a letter asking for a general type of book, as we cannot fulfill requests for specific book titles. We send a package of 2-3 books matching as closely as we can to the request, provided that their prison will accept packages from us. We only fulfill requests from any particular inmate once every three months.

How long has Books 2 Prisoners been around?

Since 2003 it has been run by several different people. After Katrina it was restarted by a local group who still run it today. This incarnation had been around for about three years.

I went to a worknight when I was in Austin, Chicago, Portland (any city). Is your group related to that group?

No. All of the prison book programs are autonomous and run independent of each other. We keep in touch via a listserv and occasionally there are national conferences.

Where does your group send to?

We currently send to prisons nationwide, but in the future we may narrow our services to just Louisiana and southern states not provided for by other groups. We do not send to jails due to the likelihood that a prisoner will be moved or released before we reach their letter in the backlog.

What are prison restrictions on books?

Every prison has its own regulations. Some common restrictions are: no hardcovers, no used books (this one really frustrates us), and no books except by an “approved vendor” which means that we cannot send anything to that prison. Often times it is at the discretion of the individual mail room. We do not send anything depicting pictures of weapons or overtly sexual situations, damaged hardcover books, or books with “provocative” words like anarchy in the title (these qualities often increase the possibility that a book will be rejected.).

Can you send to Angola?

No. They always send our books back. In the past we have gotten packages into Angola, but they have tightened their restrictions since then. They no longer accept used or hardcover books, and we lack the funds to provide new books. We run on a very tight budget and we cannot afford to keep trying.

How can I donate books?

They can be brought to 223 Jane Place during a worknight. You can email to schedule a different time to drop them off.

What kind of books do you want?

We always need more Black History, Dictionaries, Sign Language, Occult and Mystic Religions and General Health Books (books about specific diseases). We also need books on science, math, history, language, philosophy, psychology, and hobbies. Please DO NOT bring us hardcover textbooks, as they are far too heavy and cost too much to mail. This is also true of hardcover fiction and children’s books. Books with wire spines, CDs, DVDs, or books that are badly damaged all cannot be sent to prisons, so please don’t bring us anything of that nature. While all donations are appreciated, we do not have the space or time to process these types of contributions.

What books are most commonly requested by inmates?

The most common requests are for Black History, Dictionaries, Magic and the Occult, Sign Language, Suspense Fiction, Medical Dictionaries, Westerns, Horror, and True Crime.

There are also quite a few requests for books on science, computers/technology, job hunting, Spanish-English dictionaries, poetry, and hobbies (trucks, dogs, boating, airplanes, mechanics, construction, etc.)

Items that are not commonly requested or that we have enough of are romance novels, political biographies, and out-of-date reference books (old almanacs, technical manuals, encyclopedias, etc.)

Can I make a tax-deductible donation?

Not yet. We are currently working toward our 501c3 (Nonprofit) status.

How many people run Books 2 Prisoners?

Currently, 3-5. We welcome all levels of participation.

How many packages do you send out a week?

It depends on how many people show up to wrap packages. Often times it’s only limited to the amount of time available, as we have a sizable backlog of letters.

Where does your funding come from?

A little here, a little there. We throw events, concerts, sell books. Sometimes individuals or groups will raise money or collect donations at private events that they in turn donate to us. We’d love to secure a more reliable source of funding, and we welcome any ideas or suggestions on the topic of fundraising.

Do you ever sell books?

Sometimes we table and sell books at shows, but not as frequently as we would like. If you are willing and available to table for us, please let us know. We can sell any book from our collection during a worknight as well, providing that it is not in one of our highly sought after catagories.

What do you need volunteers to do?

On worknights we answer letters from inmates and wrap packages. This is the most common volunteer task. We sort books away and process donations. We also enter mailed packages into a database and research a prisoner’s status online before we mail a package to them..

Outside of worknights we need someone to: take packages to the post office, table at shows and events selling books, throw shows, parties, and benefits, and monitor sales.

If you interested in ANY of these tasks or any others that you can think of that we are not engaged in, please come to a worknight and talk to a collective member or email

What’s the difference between a volunteer and a collective member?

Collective members are responsible for keeping the program going. They have access to the space and at least one is always staffing a worknight. They handle the finances and vote on decisions at our monthly meetings. Volunteers and Collective members both wrap packages and conduct all the worknight tasks. Both are equally important to keep the project going. People who volunteer with us are welcome to assume as much responsibility as they wish and are capable of, and we encourage people to be involved as much as possible. We recommend that people be realistic about the level of commitment that they can handle. We have monthly meetings for people who are interested in being even more involved. If you’ve been coming to the worknights for awhile feel free to ask us about these meetings.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Books on Wheels Benefit Beer Dinner @ Six Burner: Thursday, March 26th

Six Burner Restaurant on Main St. has so graciously offered to hold a benefit for Books on Wheels! For $35 you receive a three course meal with an appropriate beer paired with each course, and a portion of sales will go to Books on Wheels. Dinner begins at 5:30. Six Burner encourages patrons to make reservations to guarantee a spot for the evening. For more information, check out:

Books on Wheels Benefit Beer Dinner
Thursday, March 26th, 2009
Six Burner
1627 W. Main St.
Richmond, VA 23220
$35 (exclude tax and tip)
Three Course Meal and Beer
Dinner begins at 5:30 (you can make reservations for any time after this until 9:00)
804-353-4060 for reservations
Visit for more information about the resturant

"Located in the heart of the Historic Fan District of Richmond, Virginia, Six Burner Restaurant is a great neighborhood spot where regulars come in two to three times a week for a meal or a drink at the bar. It has a warm, casual atmosphere and is open for dinner every night except Sunday. The wine list is excellent, yet reasonable, and the menu is varied and unique. In addition to the regular menu, (which changes at least weekly), there are several specials offered at dinner. On Monday through Thursday, an additional Prix Fixe menu is available. Six Burner has an on/off premises alcohol license, so if you find a wine you love over dinner, you can buy a bottle (or more) to take home.

Chef Lee Gregory uses the freshest and highest quality products and ingredients. Lights are strung around the bar and along the exposed brick wall, where artwork of various local artists is displayed. Candles and white tablecloths add to the warm and lively atmosphere.

Ry & Beth Marchant, Owners
Lee Gregory, Chef/Manager
Tracey Love, Manager"


Monday, February 23, 2009

Thanks to Lisa Jones Crowleyy, Relator

For featuring us on her website!

"And don’t forget Books on Wheels!
While we are talking about free books, please also remember the local non-profit, Books On Wheels, which was founded by Chop Suey Books owner Ward Tefft and friend Shelley Briggs. They operate out of a small, blue bus known city wide as the Mo’Book Mo’Bike Mobile, or Moby for short. They are always looking for donations of children’s books, bikes, and gas money, all of which can be dropped off at the 1317 W. Cary location during regular business hours. If you are interested in “booking” Books On Wheels, feel free to contact them at

Hurray for books!"


Shelf Awareness Article...Very Old

"Rolling Right Along with Richmond Bookseller

Ward Tefft is hitting the road. The Richmond, Va., bookseller is one of the driving forces behind a new non-profit venture, Books on Wheels, which gives away books and offers bike repair services free of charge.

The owner of used bookstores Chop Suey Books and the recently-opened Chop Suey Tuey, Tefft had sought an effective way to distribute merchandise he couldn't sell. A bookshelf outside the entrance of the flagship store (which marks its fifth anniversary in April) resulted in soggy tomes from inclement weather--and even provided some passersby objects to throw during fights. Tefft considered renting a separate space solely for the purpose of giving away free books, but it "wasn't feasible," he said, as it would mean "a lot of overhead with no income."

Tefft has since found the perfect storefront--a minibus painted sky blue and emblazoned with the vehicle's moniker in graffiti-style type: Mo'Book Mo'Bike Mobile.

During a conversation in January with friend and fellow philanthropist Shelley Briggs, the co-founder of Spokes, a non-profit bicycle repair operation, the duo decided to combine their respective interests and within 48 hours had purchased the bus. A mobile operation "is nicer because we can go to people instead of having them come to us," said Tefft, speaking last week from New Orleans, La., one of the stops on the Mo'Book Mo'Bike Mobile's inaugural road trip.

Tefft and Briggs plan to hold bi-monthly events in Richmond with occasional forays to other cities. Along with New Orleans, last week they visited Greensboro, N.C., Pensacola, Fla., and Nashville, Tenn. They partnered with a local business or organization in each city, including a New Orleans school where children's shouts of "there's the book mobile" greeted their arrival.

Books on Wheels was part of an after-school program for the Crescent City students, who received Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket adventures as well as books by Richard Scarry and others. Neighborhood residents had their bikes repaired and browsed the book offerings while they waited.

Combining efforts with established programs and events is preferable "because there is a built-in audience," said Tefft, who noted that for the out-of-town trips it's sometimes difficult to garner publicity coverage. A second road trip is planned for June, when the Mo'Book Mo'Bike Mobile will be heading to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City.

Books on Wheels' free books and bicycle repair services (bikes are also given away gratis) are available to anyone regardless of age or economic status, although Tefft and Briggs are making a special effort to reach out to underprivileged children and adolescents. "We want to encourage reading across the board," said Tefft. "Really this is for everyone."--Shannon McKenna

Books on Wheels accepts donations of gently used books, particularly children and young adult titles, as well as bicycles and bike parts. Visit for more information."

Chop Suey/Bizarre Market in Brick Reloaded: Dec. 08

"Keep Richmond Bizarre
Cesca Janece Waterfield
December 03, 2008

Anxious about Aunt Alice’s Christmas present? Wondering what to get your Wii partner for Hanukkah?

Look no further than Chop Suey Tuey, 2913 W. Cary St., where you’ll find everything from handmade cards, children’s toys, paintings, photography, handmade bags, knit clothing, stuffed animals, jewelry, and more. Through December 24, the Carytown bookshop is host to the Bizarre Market, Richmond’s most unique shopping event.

Chop Suey Books has united residents, artists, authors, and musicians since March of 2002 with its diverse inventory and eclectic schedule of events including readings, live performances, movie screenings, and more. With Shelley Briggs, owner Ward Tefft even established the innovative “Books on Wheels,” a non-profit committed to distributing free books and bike repair, and inexpensive restored bikes. One of Ward’s friends and a former employee, Anna Virginia, began the Bizarre Market six years ago to bring together artists and crafters like herself with treasure hunting shoppers. Previous Bizarre Markets have been held outside Chop Suey’s original location near VCU, and they’ve grown each season. You don’t need a red-nosed reindeer to see why.

The Bizarre Market is quirky and classy: Richmond resident Bird Cox curated this year’s collection, which features the work of 50 independent artists and crafters, all from Richmond. Everything here is one-of-a-kind, made by somebody you might actually talk to.

It’s affordable: Prices begin at $1, with most items costing around $20. The highest price-tag maxes out at $250.

The Bizarre Market is socially responsible. Sure, you can pump your hard-earned dollars into short-sighted, mass marketed knickknacks. Or you can get cool heirloom pieces, direct your shopping dollars, and share the love with local stores and artists. Located at the edge of Carytown, the Bizarre Market can be the jump-off to a memorable holiday experience with your friends and family that also supports the businesses and people in our own backyard. Studies consistently show that dollars spent at locally-owned businesses tend to stay in the area, tripling their positive economic impact and cultivating healthy communities. So shopping locally is sensible anytime. But when economic belts grow tighter, it can be the difference in a town surviving, or thriving.

Some of the artists represented this season include Jan Shropshire, who works with her 6-year-old daughter. “She does ceramics and tiles,” Bird said. “They’re really fun, colorful, and childlike birds and stars and flowers. She also does paintings in that same style.” The whimsical children’s apparel of Anda Corie is available, including appliqué shoes and reversible smocks. Screenprinter Travis Robertson has made his unique books and notepads available. “He does everything in very bold, bright colors,” Bird said. Travis is associate editor of The Drama, a quarterly arts publication based in Richmond.

The Bizarre Market has hundreds of ways to deliver meaningful cheer to the folks on your shopping list, and even to some who aren’t. And the goods here aren’t your average retailer fare. “The quality and the meaning you get from something that’s been made by hand by someone who loves what they’re doing is so intrinsically different from something you’d get at [a chain store],” Bird said. “It carries with it a good feeling. You come into the room and you can tell people poured their hearts into it.”

The Bizarre Market at Chop Suey Tuey
2913 West Cary St.
Mon - Thu. 10 - 6
Friday & Sat. 10 - 7
Sun 12 - 6

Chop Suey Tue yFeatured in The Collegian: Oct. '08

Boutique of the Week: Chop Suey Tuey

Published: October 9, 2008,
Collegian Staff

2913 W. Cary St.
Richmond, Va. 23221

Chop Suey Tuey Boutique is at 2913 W. Cary St. in Richmond. (Alexandra Varipapa/The Collegian)

Chop Suey Tuey Boutique is at 2913 W. Cary St. in Richmond.

Chop Suey Tuey is a bookstore with a hip style and a community- oriented way of doing business. The book boutique, located in Carytown, specializes in art, photography, architecture, design and literature.

Chop Suey Tuey, the second location of the recently closed Chop Suey, will be expanding to two floors to accommodate the store closing, said Ward Tefft, the owner. The original Chop Suey Books, which was near VCU’s campus, was forced out of business because of rising rents and business concerns.

Chop Suey sells books one probably wouldn’t find at Barnes and Noble or Borders, Tefft said. The store has a lot of underground items and rare books. It also has a section specializing in tattoos and graffiti.

Chop Suey owners put a lot of focus on Richmond artists. Upstairs, the store has a gallery with openings every month where it shows local artists’ works. Also, once a month, Tefft brings in a local writer to read his or her work, Tefft said. Chop Suey also occasionally hosts national writers.

Tefft is involved in Books-On-Wheels, along with Shelley Briggs. Books-On-Wheels is an organization promoting literacy and alternative transportation that gives away free books and free bike repair. The two travel on the “Mo’ Book Mo’ Bike Mobil,” a heavily graffiti-ed bus filled with books and bicycle parts, to different communities in the Richmond area.

Velocity Comics has a small section in the store where one can find new graphic novels for sale. The store has been gradually increasing its selection of comics.

Chop Suey Tuey sells new and used books, though the original Chop Suey only sold used, Tefft said. If you can’t find what you are looking for the store will order it and give you 10 percent off. Also, if you have some books lying around that you want to get off your hands, Chop Suey buys used books!

Contact staff writer Alexandra Varipapa at

About Ward...From the VCU Alumni Site

Ward Tefft

Ward Tefft

One alumnus’s love of books speaks volumes.

Ward Tefft never intended to go into the book business, but it seemed as though fate had other plans.

After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University with a bachelor’s degree in English, Tefft attended graduate school at the State University of New York in Buffalo. Armed with his master’s degree, Tefft made his way to New York City where he lived and worked at several different bookstores. That’s when, “I really got into it,” he said of the business.

When Tefft ultimately returned to Richmond, he toyed with the idea of opening his own bookstore. Then an old building on Cary Street near VCU’s Monroe Park Campus came up for sale. The timing felt right so Tefft took the plunge and Chop Suey Books opened in March 2002.

“It’s an amalgamation of places I’ve worked,” Tefft said. “I took what I liked about all of them.”

Chop Suey is not just a bookstore. It’s more of a cultural center. The store sells used books — from paperbacks to more expensive, collectible tomes — and holds numerous and varied events, such as 24-Hour Bookman parties, Bring Your Own Chair Night and Trailer Park Theatre.

It’s rare that an independent bookseller can compete against the big-box retailers, but the Chop Suey formula has worked well. So well, in fact, that in November 2006, Chop Suey Tuey opened in Carytown.

“We’re not successful in the conventional sense,” Tefft said. “But loving what I do helps us succeed. Everyone who works here really believes in having an independent bookstore in the area.”

In 2006, opportunity knocked once again. Tefft’s friend, Shelley Briggs — a 2004 VCU College of Humanities and Sciences graduate who is now pursuing a master’s degree at VCU’s School of Social Work — wanted to buy a bus and travel around to offer free bike repairs to the community. Tefft had been thinking of starting a bookmobile so the two began collaborating. “Books on Wheels,” housed in a bright blue school bus called “Moby” (for “Mo’ Books, Mo’ Bikes”), travels mainly throughout the Richmond area promoting literacy and alternative transportation.

“Books on Wheels” now has two buses. “A fleet,” Tefft said. In March 2008, for the second straight year, Tefft and Briggs traveled to North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana and Texas for a week, doling out books and repairs. This year they brought along three bike mechanics.

When Moby rolls into town, people appreciate what the pair is doing even if they don’t take a book or get a bike fixed, Tefft said. And kids love Moby! “They all want to go on the bus,” he said. “It looks really wild.”

Tefft divides his time between the bookstores and “Books on Wheels” to see that both do well. “I work really hard,” he said. “I’m busting my butt to get books in here — good books.” At present, Tefft doesn’t have a new project lined up. But he knows that could change in an instant.

“These things happen as they happen,” Tefft said. “It’s Richmond; there’s always opportunity here.”

More Googling...

Ward Tefft and Shelley BriggsThis article is from last year, but I never posted it as far as I remember. We say some weird stuff sometimes...

Ward Tefft and Shelley Briggs

Before they hit the road to New Orleans, we catch up with the co-founders of "Books on Wheels."

Stephanie Brummell
Monday, February 25, 2008

"Richmond has been amazingly supportive. There's no way I could imagine doing this anywhere other than here. The city itself and the support we've gotten from friends and other businesses have helped carry us through this."

Sometimes the best ideas are wrapped in the worst of packages. After an accident in January 2007 left Shelley Briggs without a car of her own, she and friend Ward Tefft, owner of Chop Suey bookstore, made it their mission to help others in the Richmond community and beyond. With the formation of Richmond's most beloved free book and bike repair nonprofit, "Books on Wheels," Shelly and Ward will hit the road again in their loudly decorated "Mo Books Mo Bikes" mobile on Friday, March. 7. was able to catch up with the pair before making their second trip to New Orleans.

Have you two always been Richmonders?
I'm originally from Maryland and went to VCU here in the mid-'90s. I moved back here in 2001 to take over the store. Shelley is from North Carolina and Virginia Beach and moved here in 2000 to go to VCU.
Shelley: I'm getting my masters in Social Work right now.

So why Richmond – and Ward, how did you come to own Chop Suey?
I moved back and I'd been working in used bookstores and new bookstores for about seven years when I got back and decided I wanted to do one in Richmond, and it just happened a lot quicker than I thought it was going to.

How did the bookstore get its name Chop Suey?
We call it Chop Suey because, you can see from the old sign, it used to be George's Chop Suey which was a restaurant. I had some friends that lived here when James Bradford, who is a painting professor at VCU, owned the building and they lived here. We have always called it Chop Suey, so it was easy to figure out the name. That's why the store opened so quickly too, is because this building came open and I knew I really wanted to be here.

Moving on to Books on Wheels, what sparked your interest for the project?
It all started with a car crash actually. Last year, in January, I got in a car accident and my truck was ruined. I decided that opposed to buying another personal vehicle, I would like to purchase a bus with the idea of doing mobile bicycle repair. I never expressed this interest to anyone before, but I had been working on bikes for a while before all this happened. As far as Richmond goes, and just over all, being able to fix people's bikes is a great skill to have, but if they have no way of getting to you, then you can't really do a whole lot. So, Ward came over to my house one afternoon and I had been searching around for a vehicle, and I had this bus circled in Auto Trader. I told him about my idea and he said, "I've always wanted to do a book mobile, I have a constant supply of books that I can't do anything with." We probably talked about it for another 10 minutes and literally bought it the next day. We got the bus painted and dove head-first into the project and have just been learning as we go along.
Ward: It all moved really quickly because Shelley had off for spring break, so we had a deadline.

What's your mission and what are you hoping to accomplish with Books on Wheels?
We serve as a jumpstart for people to start reading and ride their bikes more. On the book side of it, we hope to encourage literacy and make books available, free and mobile so we can get to areas where kids maybe don't have access to libraries. One of the cool things about the bus is that when we pull up to places, kids will be like, "Wow, it's the bus!" And they'll take books from us that they wouldn’t otherwise. We did an event in New Orleans where the church we were at gave us like 10 boxes of books that they couldn't get the kids to take and we just happened to set them out when we were doing our event and because we had the bus, the same kids that wouldn't take the books from the church, came to us and walked away with handfuls. On the bike side of it, we are able to be mobile and get to people whose bikes may need to be fixed.

What was your favorite experience from last year's Book on Wheels tour?
We had a lot going on last year. We went on two separate tours, one down to New Orleans and back and another up to New York, over to Chicago and home again. I don't really know if I can think of a favorite experience.
Ward: Well, this one story is a good one. It was a long day from New Orleans to Nashville and we stopped at this gas station. The preface to this story is that at one of the first events that we did in Greensboro, this person brought us this bag of mystery and romance paperbacks and it was great, but who were we going to give these to? So five days later we were at this gas station and the cashier asked what we were doing, we told her, and she asked, "Oh, do you have any mystery or romance novels in there?" So we gave them to her and she went nuts. She couldn't have been happier. I mean we were there for only 10 minutes and we left this woman who was so excited about having seen us.

What's going to be different about this year's tour?
Size and scope. We have a bus that's two and a half sizes bigger so we're bringing down, I'd say close to 2,000 books. We only brought 300 down with us last time. We're also bringing two more bike mechanics this year and taking on volunteers because we have the room to travel with people, and a photographer.
Shelley: We're also starting to learn more practical ways to distribute the books, better locations, contacts to make. We learned a lot that first trip, what works well and what doesn't. We're bringing bikes this time too, to give away to people who need them, like if someone brings us their bike and we really can't fix it.

What's "Moby" the "Mo Books Mo Bikes" Mobile like inside?
The bus came blue because the guy we got it from ran a river rafting company. But a friend of ours was very, very kind and two hours after we gave the bus to him, it looked incredible. We have magnets on the inside from all the places we've been too and the inside is painted pink like Pepto-Bismol … so you can't get car sick.

Is "Moby" your home away from home then?
We do stay in the bus. It's roomy enough and we feel more comfortable just staying with it. Plus it cuts our costs because we don't ever have to pay for a place to stay. And Ward has a megaphone with a siren option on it. So we sleep next to it and if we feel something is getting sketchy, we'll just turn it on. Last year, we actually didn't use it, even though there were a couple of times we probably should have.

How do you decide where to tour and which stops to make?
We started off by just getting in contact with people we knew in other cities. Ward has a really good friend in Greensboro, we have a really good friend in Pensacola, I used to live in New Orleans – so we just started making those rounds. Even if our friends, if they don't live in the areas we target themselves, they know of a place where they think we should be. We're not always at an after-school program with kids running around, but that's the fun of it, being diverse.
Ward: We're only going to actually be in four cities this year, but for our own benefit of being able to do more, we've double-booked ourselves everywhere.

What is the best part about doing Books on Wheels?
Honestly … hanging out. Who doesn't want to drive around with their best friend and do something good?
Ward: One of the easiest things about this project is doing it in Richmond. The response we've gotten from local businesses is just awesome.
Shelley: Richmond has been amazingly supportive. There's no way I could imagine, comparatively to where else I've lived, doing this anywhere other than here. The city itself and the support we've gotten from friends and other businesses have helped carry us through this.

What's the hardest part of the job?
Driving around the bus and finding the time to do as much as we want to do. Our brains are moving a year ahead of what either of us have the time to do, and that will change when I'm done with school. But that's frustrating for me, because I want to do so much right now, and I just have to tell myself to just do one, just do a little bit right now.

What are your future plans for Books on Wheels?
I think the biggest plans we have right now are to still get on the road a couple times a year and do what we can around Richmond. We really like the way it's going right now. I think our next big move, which I'm hopeful will happen in the spring, is getting the bus converted off of diesel. We'd like to not be riding around on diesel anymore.

Through your efforts with Books on Wheels, what lessons have you learned about yourself or others?
I was actually talking to my sister about this the other day. I've just realized how unbelievably important relationships are with people, and not just with Ward and I, but with thanking every resource we've ever had and taking the time to talk to people.
Ward: Also, just doing selfless things for other people and helping people out, is really energizing and fulfilling. Last summer we did an eight day tour to different public library branches, while we were both working and it was the hottest week! But I had no regrets. I couldn't have felt better at the end of the day.

What are your favorite books?
We have a book collection in the bus, and I can't remember the exact titles of them right now, but they're our favorites because of the stories behind them. They all have a story.

What's your favorite spot in Richmond?
I really like the fish tacos at Café Ole.
Ward: I have such a hard time narrowing things down into favorites; it's hard to pick just one thing.

What's your favorite thing to do when you're not working or planning Books on Wheels?
Shelley and Ward:
Ward: Oh, Holly Street Park; that would be one of my favorite places. If you're looking for us, you can definitely find us down there.
Shelley: But you better bring you game.

What's your worst vice or guilty pleasure?
Watching my mouth (laughs).
Ward: Caring too much (laughs). Just kidding, that's only funny when people can hear me say it.

What do you admire most in a person?
Honesty and follow-through. From working with people, those are the people that are the best to be around.
Shelley: Yeah … what he said.

Richmond is ______.
Shelley and Ward: Awesome!

Richmond Inside Out

This website is neat! Stubbled upon it after I googled "Books on Wheels" (yeah, I do that) and it talks about the upcoming Roller Girls event and other coolness in the city.

" is the site where locals share insider insights on the best places to go, best places to eat and best things about living, working and hanging out in RVA (that’s Richmond, Virginia for those of you who struggle with acronyms). is sponsored by the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau as a place where locals can share what they know and love about the Richmond Region. Content on the site is user-generated. There is NO paid advertising or hidden agenda. Enjoy"


Slowly getting dates together for the new tour as well as working on some fundraising opportunities for March. Look out for this bike to be raffled off in the near future; Thanks to the person who donated it to us!

Here are a few places you can find us in New Orleans as of now:

Monday, April 6th: Israelite Baptist Church in Mid-Town
Tuesday, April 7th: Alvar Library Branch of the New Orleans Public Libraries

More events to come soon!

I don't think I ever thanked McGoo for sending us a great bunch of tires and cables from SNAFU BMX which are super nice and really helpful for our upcoming trip and our other events this spring. Awesome. Thanks McGoo!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The MobookMobileMobile The Third: Tiny Bus

At Ellwood Thompson's new coffee shop. Take a book and then feel free to put your dollars into the little bus!

Friday, February 20, 2009

River City Roller Girls Benefit for Books on Wheels: March 22nd, 2009

March 22nd
Doors at 6:30 pm.
This is gonna be awesome! Here is a little more info about the girls...

"That is right, you read that right! Derby is ALIVE, KICKING and BRAWLING right here in RICHMOND. River City Roller Girls, or RCR, is an all-women roller derby league passionate about and dedicated to the proliferation of the sport. Who exactly is RCR and what do they do? Find all this out and more than you ever wanted to know about the girls of RCR and the strategic game of women's flat track derby.

Something exciting is happening in Richmond Virginia...Richmond's first all women's flat track roller derby association, the River City Rollergirls has begun its 4th season! We're incorporating a new format and 2 new teams in 2009. The new teams will do equal traveling to other teams across the eastern seaboard as well as 6 home games each per year. That means Richmond now has twice the amount of derby bouts per year!

Right now, we're looking for sponsorship, fundraising opportunities and possible trades as we're moving into the new 2009 Season.

If you don't know much about the River City Rollergirls, read on!

The River City Rollergirls are a non profit organization with over 60 members in the tri-city area. We support local and national charities such as, Ring Dog Rescue, Books on Wheels, Make a Wish Foundation, Stop Child Abuse Now, The Childrens Museum of Richmond, and The Richmond YWCA. We have also participated in fundraising and awareness events such as Livestrong Day, Race for the cure, Virginia Bully Walk, Punks for Presents, The Harvey Foundation, Art for Autism for the Faison school for Autism, many events at the Richmond Chapter of the SPCA animal shelter and more. Each year we're in operation, we add two new charities, so our outreach is constantly growing and changing.

In order to raise money for our charities and continue to operate as a league, we hold functions all year round. Roller Derby is one of the few all female full contact sports out there, and we're doing our best to raise awareness and get people interested in this relatively new extreme sport. We've been featured in national, regional and local publications. Just to give you an idea of the momentum behind Women's Roller Derby, it should be mentioned that its a likely pick for the 2016 olympic games, a Feature Film staring Drew Barrymore and Ellen Paige is coming out in 2009, an animated series is slated to be released in 2010, and a video game for the Playstation 3 will be released in 2009.

The River City Rollergirls have no paid employees and use only volunteers. We are able to sustain ourselves as a non profit organization solely through tax deductible donations and support from the Richmond community. We promise that you won't find any sport more action packed or a group more devoted to the community than the River City Rollergirls"

Monday, February 16, 2009

Books on Wheels Spring Tour Dates Changed!

Due to the economic crisis, Books on Wheels has moved tour dates and shortened the tour.
Sorry to those who we won't be seeing this time around.
The new official, real deal tour dates are:

April 5th: New Orleans, LA
April 6th: New Orleans, LA
April 7th: New Orleans, LA

Just three days but we are trying to do as much as possible in that time period.
If anyone has any information about locations we can set up or places that could
use some donated books, PLEASE contact us!!! Thanks!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Feb. 28th, 2009: RVA Really Really Free Market! Monroe Park

Come join the Really Really Free Market in Monroe Park
Feb. 28th, 2009
12-5 pm
Bring items to give away, take items for yourself! This event is always fun!!
Free and Open to the public

For more information:
www. myspace. com/rvafreemarket
call: 804 300 0023 (Mo Karn)

Ellwood Thompson's New Coffee Shop Open and Offering Books from Books on Wheels!!

Short Order
Elwood Thompson finally gathers enough cast-off materials to launch its café, a whole menu dedicated to whiskeys, and more.
by Deveron Timberlake

Conscious Corner

Look deeply into the new concrete countertops at Ellwood’s Coffee and you’ll see the future: bits of broken glass, construction detritus and the occasional Miller bottle cap, all fossilized into green.

Everything about the coffee house, opening this week across the parking lot from the natural-foods grocer, relates to environmentally aware building techniques, from the dual-flush toilets to compostable to-go cups, salvaged street signs made into outdoor tables, Lucky Strike factory panels hanging as wood soffits and walls covered in tinted American clay instead of paint.

This is the long-planned “corner of consciousness,” as nearly delirious ET staffers are calling their expansion, and there’s more to come. An outdoor mural by Richmond artist Ed Trask will cover the exterior walls of both grocery store and café, presenting a united façade at the mouth of Carytown.

The enlarged grocery store, planned for a spring unveiling, will give more square footage to dining tables and merchandise. First up, though, the coffeehouse — called the Community Place — will be open daily, serving sandwiches such as the ton of funghi and the tempeh Reuben, along with a sampling of chef Jannequin Bennett’s seasonal repertoire.

Local wines and beers will be poured, but the centerpiece of the operation is the $11,000 Clover coffee brewer, which makes “a clean and personal cup each time,” say the baristas, who’ve been training since July and who rate their Counter Culture Coffee organic, direct-trade beans the best available.

Inside the building, which once housed the High’s Ice Cream and sandwich shop and more recently the Blue Fox Café, furnishings are comfortably noncorporate. A big table by the bookshelves can house meet ups and community groups. Live music and open mic nights are in the works, and there’s “free-range Internet,” as they call it. There are teas by Herban Avenues and Rishi, even reference books and classics in a take-one, leave-one arrangement helped along by donations from Chop Suey Books. Kids can play with all-natural toys in the corner.

“This fulfills our mission,” store CEO Ryan Youngman says, “which is sustainability in a business that has a soul — it completes us.” For now, at least. Ellwood’s continues its expansion into Northern Virginia, and the future here could also hold a housewares division. Looks like caffeine will be a necessity.

Ellwood’s Coffee is open daily, 6 a.m.-10 p.m. 10 S. Thompson St. 612-1827.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Books on Wheels featured in The Collegian

Here is the link!

Opinion Editor

I’m afraid I haven’t been completely honest with myself during the last year and a half of college. There are times in life — you might have experienced them — when you realize you’ve made tons of small decisions and finally reached a TAM point … That Ain’t Me. I know myself too well to actually believe that my passions are dead and my dreams small. To think I had finally arrived at a point of comfort with the world around me … TAM. I recently realized that when I’m here at school, I spread myself so thin that sometimes I’m not actually anywhere — moving too fast and caring too little for what’s going on around me. Most of my relationships are like faces when the train goes by and you can just barely make out the blur before it’s gone.

I realized that sometimes I spend more time on Facebook than with real people, more time screaming over the music than relaxing in the quiet, laughing when I really want to walk out of the room. There are days when I snap out of the funk and realize I’ve lost myself. Last Saturday was one of those days, and I just decided I was done.

Done running all over the place.

Done giving of myself for the sake of the now.

Eckart Tolle be damned, I’ve decided to plan for the future and I don’t see myself doing for the next 20 years what I have been doing for the last one.

No pretensions. No BS. Just me telling you what I love about the world or maybe where people could stand to improve a little. Every week I’m going to tell you why I’ve personally made the decision to live another day of my life and, more importantly, why it’s going to be a good one.

For now, I’ll leave you with a story about an old school bus and why it made my day last semester.

If you ever saw the “Books on Wheels” bus you’d never forget it. One day when I was escaping the suburbs, I saw it in a parking lot on Cary St. and wondered to myself, “Who would think to start an organization that combines free bike repair with free books?”

Fortunately, I’m the over-friendly type, and I stopped to meet the owners of the bus, Ward Tefft and Shelley Briggs. While I spoke with the owners and loaded boxes of books, cars came and dropped off everything from “Green Eggs and Ham” to old romance novels. I knew I had found what I didn’t know I was looking for.

During a more recent conversation with Shelley, she told me about the beginnings of the Books on Wheels.

“We didn’t come up with a plan or a name before we had bought the bus. I highly recommend anyone approaching anything the same way,” she said.

Pragmatic college students might call this sort of life decision dangerous or a waste of time, but for Shelley and Ward, the Books on Wheels bus is just what they do — something they’ve made a commitment to.

As for my initial question about the combination of books and bikes, Shelley made the remark, “We consider them both to be liberating tools as far as education and transportation are concerned.”

Why didn’t I think of that?

I can’t tell you how much I want to be these people. I was never cut out for this fancy college thing, but I feel like I’ve been able to fake it pretty well so far. I still think D-hall is the most awkward space on campus and the nightlife here is great, but unfortunately similar.

But what I have begun to learn is that I am better off for being here. The campus mentality is “get in the box,” but I’ve never really liked the box and I had to learn that for myself. If I settle for the box now, there is no way I’ll ever do something like meet a woman with tattoos and start something like Books on Wheels as a middle-aged man (Shelly, don’t be creeped out by me).

So learn a lesson from two people doing something less-than-ordinary and imagine yourself headed in that direction as you live your life … or you can just settle down in the box and stop asking questions. It’s way more comfortable, but not nearly as rewarding.

Contact opinion editor Michael Rogers at