Wrangling the Chaos: A Bookseller’s 2020 Resolutions

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- January 10th, 2020

Yes, it’s a resolution post. Here’s the truth. I am not actually a New Year’s Resolution person. But all week my colleague Eugenia keeps making jokes about “2020 Meghan,” because I guess I’m unleashing a clean-out-the-closets perspective on the world. I don’t know, I guess maybe I am just a walking cliché, but it’s true that after the bustling immediacy of the holiday rush, January tends to feel wide open. So why not embrace a dewy, wide-eyed optimism? So what’s on deck for this (probably brief) window of 2020 energy?

Find a few extra minutes: At last year’s Winter Institute I went to a fantastic session that Cindy Dach from Changing Hands presented about how to be a better owner, manager, buyer, or bookseller, and I came away determined to be more intentional about my time. Time so easily disappears in the manic crush of all the things that have to be done “right now” or slips away into all-consuming projects that could be accomplished more quickly with a bit more structure—while bigger-picture, needle-moving efforts get pushed off the priority list. I’ve found that blocking out time on the calendar for that bigger picture work this past year has been an valuable tool for finding focus. Next up this year is undergoing a time audit to take a deeper look at the balance.

Tidy up the digital closet: Google Drive has become an indispensable part of the store’s work flow. Shared documents and grids pool our talents and resources, and searching the archives for half-remembered keywords you remember someone sharing with you once actually works a remarkable amount of the time. It’s an incredible resource and an invaluable back-up, especially after staff transitions. There’s great stuff in there: vendor and local author contact grids, book fair title lists, festival planning docs, event tracking grids, rolling meeting agendas, signage templates, shared brainstorming documents, and more. But the cumulative clutter makes it that much harder to ensure that final versions stand out from working drafts, that all the photos we take are easily accessible, and that all those genius interdepartmental tracking grids that are going to cover gaps and solve problems stay up to date. A system to organize our systems? Does anyone else’s inner Type A nerd love the sound of that?

And clean out the actual closet: No bookseller ever has looked around and marveled at their over- abundance of storage space. We all maximize our shelf space and minimize our storage. But when your carefully curated store of lovingly handcrafted display signs can only be accessed by balancing 15 rolls of colored paper against your back as tattered display copies of pop-up books that aren’t currently in stock fall off shelves into bins of Halloween decorations and crafting supplies, it’s very possibly time to say goodbye to some things.

Load up the reading list: When our systems work perfectly, we buyers read books in advance of the buy, disseminate the best ARCs to our staff, and clear out the shelves just in time to make room for the next week’s shipments of ARCs like clockwork. In reality, this is just one of the many hats we wear as booksellers, and we’re always playing catch-up. In my more petulant moments, I’ve been known to proclaim that my mail (which, of course I also love) is ruining my life. But it’s January, so anything is possible! I’m looking at you, impossibly far-off, and rapidly proliferating August 2020 releases!

(Also, streamlining the number of times I touch each ARC on its way from original box, into my own office, out into the hands of staff, and back for eventual donation is a nut I have yet to fully crack.)

But be okay letting things go: It’s not in any bookseller’s nature to admit defeat. But even though “read everything” is essentially right in the job description, it’s impossible. And as difficult as it is to clear out the pile of “to read” ARCs from the previous year to make room for everything that’s coming in, every January I do a little bit of a better job letting go. It’s not like I can’t go back and read something later. I can! I just can’t actually fit every book ever written on the back of my desk (Undetectable Extension Charm notwithstanding).

What 2020 goals are on your wish list?




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