Like most of my ShelfTalker colleagues, I’ve taken an extended break from blogging during the pandemic, as ever-shifting dynamics at the store pulled focus and finding a minute for reflection felt impossible. Now, a little over a month into 2022, after closing out the year with a successful holiday shopping season, I feel suddenly, tentatively hopeful that we’re reclaiming some of our familiar rhythms—a bit haltingly, a bit differently perhaps, but finding a little bit of our old selves nonetheless.
It was such a breath of back-to-normal fresh air to see the crowds back in the store over the holidays, clearly embracing the joys of getting out, shopping local, and talking books with their friendly neighborhood booksellers (a trend that has continued with unusually strong traffic in these traditionally lighter winter months). But for a store that typically revolves so heavily around events, festivals, and partnerships, the absence of those interactive collaborations over the last couple of years left a big hole—not only in BookPeople’s business, but in how we booksellers extend our mission beyond our walls and engage creatively with the role of books in our community.
On a personal level, a rewarding constant for me throughout the pandemic has truly been our relationships with local authors. Bringing them in to personalize stacks of preorders or coordinating celebratory virtual launches has offered a consistent sliver of joy that keeps us tethered to the local literary community we’re a part of. And of course, it’s no coincidence that Austin authors appear all over our bestselling titles of last year.
But obviously, we want to keep building all our programs back out and keep bringing readers back in. With Omicron ringing in the New Year, dreams of relaunching our storytime program in January and throwing afterhours pajamas party events for newly vaccinated children didn’t exactly come to fruition. But as we ease back into ticketed in-person events afterhours (with so-far excellent success), kick off annual festival planning, and bring in partners to talk about new initiatives altogether, I sense a change in the air. I feel like I’ve had more open-ended brainstorming conversations with external groups in the last three weeks than I’ve had in the past year. We even just booked our first post-pandemic field trip to come to the store later this spring (fingers crossed).
I know things may not continue in a straight line from where we are, but I guess I’m looking forward to seeing what 2022 brings, and where we can go from here. Regardless, it’s nice to be back on this blog to take the time to reflect on where we are and what we’re trying to do once again!