Tucked away in the middle of the Pu’unene Sugar Mill complex is a building lost in time. As you head down a dirty, dusty driveway you pass through the inner workings of the sugar mill, past the original meat market building (for factory workers), past the old Pu’unene Congregational Church, turning right after you pass the Pu’unene School and onwards towards the sugar cane fields. Depending on the prevailing winds, sometimes you can simply follow the white smoke billowing out from the towering chimney stacks to find the Maui Friends of the Library bookstore.
Historical side note: The school was built in 1922 to hold 350 students. It exceeded that number over three-fold and was the largest school on Maui for a brief time. It is currently used by the Department of Education as an administration building and was added to the National Register of Historic Places listings in Hawaii in 2000. The church has been standing since 1910 and has been home to several different denominations. The land where the church sits was being considered for an ethanol plant and plans were being made to find a new location for the church before it was scheduled for destruction. Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company was trying to give it away back in 2007, but apparently has changed its mind on the ethanol plant.
The Maui Friends of the Library used book store is open Tuesday through Saturday, between the hours of 9am-4pm. You can browse the dirt and dust covered shelves in search of a literary diamond in the rough. Hardcover or softcover, classics or modern, the book selection found within is as unique as the location of the store.
Run entirely by volunteers, MFOL locations are found in Lahaina (around the corner from the Wharf Cinema), Kahului (in the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center) and the original Pu’unene location, making them the largest retailer of books on the island. In fact, you can add up all the Barnes & Noble, Borders, Waldenbooks, B. Daltons and Hudson News locations on Maui and you still won’t come close to the number of physical stores run by this non-profit organization.
Prices vary at locations (the newer ones have newer books and higher prices), but if you head to the Pu’unene location the books are .25 cents each (recently raised from .10 cents and some books are marked higher). The Pu’unene location also offers five or six bookcases of free books outside on the lanai. The MFOL only accepts cash and all the money goes directly to the Maui County public library. So feel free to say, “Keep the change.” It will make a difference.