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April 27, 2013

Loving and living books in Cooperstown

Book lovers sometimes dream of floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with tasty morsels of literature that will keep them entertained for years.

Willis Monie Books in Cooperstown has more books than a person could read in a lifetime.

The book and ephemera store at 139 Main St. has more than 100,000 books in two buildings. In addition to the physical store, Willis Monie does a brisk Internet business and frequents rare-book and ephemera fairs.

“We sell books three ways — through the store, on the Internet and at rare-book fairs,” said Willis Monie, the store’s owner. “We have 105,000 different books listed on the Internet.”

Willis Monie Books occupies a former auto dealership, which had a showroom on the upper floor. It was reinforced to hold the weight of the cars, and is a suitable structure to hold the tons of books stored on the building’s second floor. 

Monie, who has been at the Cooperstown location for more than 25 years, has a palatable love for books, manuscripts and interesting paper material. He has seen the actual signatures of several founding fathers and many sports stars.

Monie has been collecting books, manuscripts and ephemera most of his life, and he has the inventory to prove it.

“I know this has been said before, but really, when you find something you love to do, it’s like you don’t work a day in your life,” Monie said. “To me, it’s like being a treasure hunter: You never know what you may come across.”

Occasionally, Monie will come across a rare book or document.

“I frequently buy books at estate sales,” Monie said. “Once, at an estate sale, I bought five very nice books, and as I was leaving, I saw a burn barrel in the back. They were burning the books that didn’t sell.

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