I love libraries. I know this might sound crazy coming from a bookseller, but I love them. I’ve been lucky enough with our store to always be within easy walking distant of the town library. This proximity allows us easy access to the library and they to us. In our old location the librarian would literally walk across the street and she’d be at our store ordering books. Even now in a larger town with the store about two blocks away, weekly I get calls, "Do you have The Last of the Olympians? Can I send the patron over right now?" Yes and yes.
Having a bookstore so close to a library is a great thing. There is no competition between us as some might think. We each serve book lovers in our unique ways. There are some of my customers who never go to the library and vice versa. But with the economy being what it is, I’m hearing more of my customers mention that they’ve been going to the library more often. I am happy for them that they are still reading. Of course I miss their business, but I know when I see them, they’re buying things they can feel really good about. I have found that actually calling the local library to inquire about stock is a great way to calm a kid down if we don’t have the book they’re looking for. We have each saved each other from book disasters by having books on hand and reserving them. And customers who don’t know us are always pleasantly surprised to see that I’m recommending they go get a book for free across the street if I’m out of it. The goodwill that this gesture creates comes back tenfold. This sends the message that we’re more invested in you and your children reading; we just care that you’re reading, and we’ll do whatever we can to put that book in your hands.
The library is also a great to place to work with. They have wonderful programming, so if our story hour has been missed by a customer, we can send them over there. Our teen book group, for whatever reasons, has not taken off, but the library’s has, so I send my eager teen readers there knowing that Katie will take excellent care of them. The two-week checkout system at the library often works to our advantage. Kids can’t often finish a book in two weeks. After two weeks, though, they’ll know if they really like the book enough to buy it at my place.
In Charlotte we did more with our library, probably because we knew them better (something I’m hoping to remedy in Shelburne). Elizabeth taught several creative writing classes to kids during the summers, we hosted many author events there when our tiny store proved to be too small, and we did some book talks there. The library also spent a large amount of money at our store every year buying new books. In Shelburne we get the young adult librarian buying books, but no one else. So, this is a wall we need to break down. But these relationship take time and we can wait and build it up month by month.
As the economic downturn has really taken hold in Vermont, I’ve had several customers come in after long absences and confess sheepishly they’ve been going to the library. I assure them it’s okay. I loved, I mean LOVED, the library when I was a kid, I used to go to the library and get John Bellairs books, The Great Brain and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. And I’d always have to renew the book because I was a slow reader. And it was magic to me. I loved the stamps on the card in the back of the book. There were no bookstores nearby, so the library was my book world. I feel as a children’s bookseller, we’ve created a space that’s as magical as a great library, and fun as a cool store.
I loved your look at this partnership that enhances and elevates our communities. And, this is what is exactly lacking in neighborhoods and communities serving families in low-income situations. No books stores nearby, limited funding and resources for libraries experiencing cutbacks-these factors limit reading and literacy activities for the very kids that need them most. At First Book, we believe in access to books to create the opportunity for children to become readers–whether in stores, libraries, classrooms or homes. Working in tandem, bookstores and libraries help create a community of readers–we know that kids need great spaces, as you say, that offer reading as a fun choice for summer and beyond, outside of school, and in their daily lives. At the nonprofit First Book we say “Share the Magic of Reading.” http://www.firstbook.org Thanks for helping folks see that it is access to books that helps communities thrive and children get excited about reading.
As I librarian turned bookseller, I love your post. And when I was a little girl, I loved the Great Brain and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series, too! We have read them to our kids, who love them as well.
A great post and as Joan from First Book says, you are making our organizations’ cases about ACCESS to books! And a great case you make…..
Truer post was never wrote. I love working with libraries. Last month my local public librarian and I did a presentation together at a day of education thing for librarians called “Perfect Partners.” Apart from the interesting sensation of being eyeballed intently by a room full of librarians, I was amazed at how eager the librarians were to seek out partnerships with bookstores in the future, but how few were engaged in them at present.
Now if only publishers could get into the mix, we’d really be talking.
I love the library, too. It was a magical place as a child, and has recently become magical again now that I don’t have a job to support my book habit. My bedroom is also overflowing with books so I had to cut back somehow! Unfortunately, my local library-Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-is in danger of closing within the next few years due to increasing costs and decreasing revenues.
I’m a library junkie, too. A lot of times I’ll check out library books and then if they snag me, I’ll go to the bookstore to buy my own copy. I also love writing at the library. To be surrounded by all those books, and by fellow book lovers. Bliss!
I am a librarian and I love our local bookstore. They are great to us. We are planning a program for preschooler called “Borrow Books Here – Buy Book There” We will do a storytime at the library and tell them how the library works then walk the one block to the local independant bookstore where will have a another story and explain the difference between the library and a bookstore. We will be providing them with some bookstore money so they can “buy” a book.
Thank you Josie for this fabulous post – I am a librarian [formerly a childrens, then secondary school and then law librarian] but now an antiquarian bookseller, and also on the board of the local library – [I live in Burlingon and frequent your shop!] – I say whatever gets a book into someone’s hand is what it is all about. You do a wonderful job of marketing and getting the word about READING out there, and so I send you many thanks for all that you do! Deb B.