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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

RA for All Loves Independent Bookstores

As I have professed many times on this blog, as a librarian, surrounded by books, with easy access to interlibrary loan services every working day, I do not often purchase books.  However, not often, does not mean never.

In every small town or neighborhood I visit, I spend time in the local independent bookstores, browse, talk to the workers, and always buy something.  Here are some of my local favorites:
A few other  gems of note which I have personally visited:
  • The Book Loft (Columbus, Ohio): over 30 rooms of books in the historic German Village.  I ate sausage and looked at books for hours.
  • Bridgeside Books (Waterbury, Vermont): a small store with a leisure reading bent.  Children's, Adult fiction, Adult narrative nonfiction, local authors and local interest, as well as interesting gifts.
  • Bearpond Books (Montpelier, Vermont): A large independent bookstore with a little bit of everything.  Again, great local author focus.
  • City Lights Books (San Francisco): any trip to SF is incomplete for a book lover without a trip to this store.  It is a landmark, independent store and publishers that specializes in world literature, the arts and progressive politics.
And the two nationally known independent book stores worth your time:
The point I am making is while I love the library, and our books are unlimited for the cost of your particular tax bill, if you are going to buy a book or a book related gift, please make sure to find a local, independently owned bookstore to patronize.

How does this pertain to Readers' Advisory though?  Good question.  I find that the people who work at independent book stores have more in common with readers' advisors than more traditional reference librarians do. In fact, when I teach at least 3 students each semesters (if not more) have book store experience.  As I mentioned above, Kathy spent years at independent bookstores before deciding to go to library school.

Independent bookstores care about books.  They want to sell you books sure, but they also want to share them, talk about them, and spread the book love.  These workers have the RA spirit.  While I spend hours in workshops trying to convince traditional librarians how to stop judging readers and just have a conversation with them abut books and reading, independent bookstore workers just do it naturally.  While I have to hammer home the idea of letting the patrons' tastes drive the suggestions we provide, no matter what the "level" of the book, independent bookstores thrive on this interaction. They put books in readers' hands; the books the readers' want.

Next to getting lost browsing in the stacks of the library, there is nothing I love more than browsing a good book store and talking to its workers.  I may find the next great RA librarian among their ranks.


Leah said...

I love love love this post. And thank you so much for the shout-out to Unabridged. My boyfriend manages that store and I may be partial but it is truly an amazing bookstore. They also just celebrated their 30 year anniversary. Three cheers for them!

Alissa W said...

Great post, but you left out my favorite bookstore - Powell's in Portland, Oregon. I guess because it has multiple locations it can no longer be counted as independent?

Becky said...

Alissa, I struggled with Powell's for the same reason you mentioned. Glad you added it to the comments.

Madeline Solien said...

I vote for Prairie Lights in Iowa City! They rule!