Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Local and Loved #3: Knowledge is Power, So Our Booksellers are the Superheroes

There has never been a doubt in my mind that it takes a special kind of person to work in a bookstore. Booksellers must have reverence for books, an extensive knowledge about books, vivacious readers, and a few endearing quirks. The problem is most booksellers at other stores seem to fall a bit short. Sure they all love to read and some may even wear socks with sandals, but they don't have it: They don't have the knowledge of and reverence for books that truly make a bookseller great. Here at the Boulder Book Store I have yet to find a bookseller who can't give me a spot on recommendation or one who doesn't exclaim over books with awe. Reason number three on the Local and Loved list is that our booksellers are the best. I had the chance to follow a few of them around and get a tiny bit of background...

Warren: 16 years
Warren started at the bookstore because he wanted to be surrounded by books. He wanted to buy and feel and read books. He has accumulated an amazing collection since starting at the Book Store and he can't wait to actually have the time to read all that he has. Warren loves seeing what's new at the store and getting a sneak peak of what's to come. He especially loves to see what books old books are being reprinted. A year or so ago he was able to replace a copy of The Long Ships after the New York Review Books reprinted a bunch of classics. Above all Warren just loves to be with the books.

Joey: 4 years
Joey is the sidelines guy. All the cool, extra stuff in the store is here because of him. Joey started working at the Boulder Book Store because he needed a job...and he loves books. The thing that Joey loves the most about the Books Store is how coworkers. He says that they're like one big (crazy) family.

Laina: 2 years
Laina works at the store because books are in her blood. Her parents own an independent bookstore back east and her home has always been filled with books. After moving to Colorado Laina knew that the Book Store was where she belonged. Laina loves the customer service aspect of the store. She loves helping people fine the right books, the ones they came in looking for and others that they might like. Books are very therapeutic for her and she wants everyone to have that same feeling with the books they read.

Tara: 2 years
Tara used to come into the Book Store as a patron and worked across the street years earlier. For her it just made sense to come back to a place she loved. Tara's favorite thing about the Book Store is its location downtown, it's a hub for so many things. She also loves working here because of Joey.

Patrick: 1 year
Patrick started at the Book Store because of the books and the community he had already become a part of. Many people from book club already worked at the Book Store and it already was a place he belonged. Patrick loves the Boulder Book Store because it is truly a community of people who love books. The Book Story is also a place of meeting.

Helen: 1 year
Helen applied for two years before she found a place at the Boulder Book Store. She graduated with a degree in English and it made perfect sense to be surrounded by the friends that she had learned with (books). She loves being at the Book Store because of the books but she loves it for other reasons as well. The Boulder Book Store is the heart of Boulder. It is a place for meeting new people and learning new things. It is also an excellent place to meet Simon Van Booy.

Christian: Christian grew up in Boulder, this is a place where he has roots. After returning from graduate school he wanted to do something he loved and selling books was the perfect thing. Christian loves that the Book Store is a crossroads for the intellectual community and a hub for local flavor. It is a place for him to be introduced to the faces that he's seen his whole life. He has had his first conversations with people that he used to stand in line with at coffee shops or see at the grocery store. The Boulder Book Store is a place for the community to come together. At events everyone can learn and everyone can teach.

For some it was a fluke, coming in a finding a place in this big, historical building. But for every book seller and staff member, The Boulder Book Store is home. And they strive everyday to make it home for their customers too.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Know the Past, Find the Future

So a little less than a month ago we thought it would be fun to host a writing contest. The prompt? Libraries. Write anything -- fact or fiction -- about libraries. This was sparked by the release of Know the Past, Find the Future -- a book Penguin released to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the New York Public Library (a pretty big one). Winners received a copy of the book and their winning submissions can be read here:


"Libraries" (by Craig)

Who needs’em ~
Got my iPod
Got my iPad
And my iPhone
Epic ringtone
Got my fast car
Got my own star
Gonna go far
Dig it? We are.

What’s a book, man?
In the trash can!
Turnin’ pages?!
Seems like ages
Since mom read me
Stories fed me
Curled up nice
And… thinkin’ twice
I’m goin’ down there
To the place where
Stories live and
Words like quicksand
Take you under
Words like thunder
Rock the soul and
Like a good band
Live forever ~
Forget them?

Libraries rock, man!


"In The Library with Maurice" (by Sandra)

My mother’s face was red and she was breathing heavily. I wasn’t quite sure if it was the intense heat or her rising anger. She remained silent as we boarded our boat-car, lips pursed into their characteristic thin, crooked line; I noticed that every button on her white cotton shirt had found its hole, all the way up to her neck, which had started to hang a little over the top of her collar. She was barely over forty, but the avalanche had started early. At ten, I didn’t fear my forty-something face. I should have.

She was struggling to start the car. Dad was at work. It was over a hundred degrees; we lived in the middle of nowhere, and the clunky air conditioner in the living room window had just died again. With her right foot, my mother mercilessly pummeled the old Dodge, another cast off from my father’s parents, fairly grunting with frustration and anger. Turn the key. Pump the throttle. Turn. Pump. If Dad had been home, he would have been outside in a jiffy, shouting at her at the top of his lungs to stop—she was flooding the engine. “Mrs. J, you’re flooding it! Stop! Stop!” Sometimes, my mother would do it just a few more times, just to make her point about the car, about everything. Then he would finally understand and hang his head. Loud and clear, Mrs. J. It was too late. At that point, we would have to wait for the car to return to a state of balance. Everyone would slowly disembark and dejectedly walk back into the house.

But this day, by some miracle, she got the engine to turn over. I was in the front seat, and my three younger siblings were in the back, probably mocking me, as usual. My mother broke her silence with a war whoop and we were off. Our tiny air-conditioned library, 20 non-air-conditioned minutes away, was waiting for us.

Once inside, we sighed with cool relief. We wandered over to the children’s section, where the tables were already too short for me, and my mother practically ran for the celebrity bios. The library couldn’t have been much bigger than our own tiny house, but it seemed like a mansion. Like Mom, I staked out my spot, away from my immature siblings, and found my own questionable material: Maurice Sendak. Before I was old enough to start sneak-reading my mother’s secondhand celebrity smut, Maurice opened a window in the room of my repressive childhood. My favorites were Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More To Life, and In the Night Kitchen. I suspected that there was something subversive in the former, and something desperately titillating about the latter, but I was very sheltered, and couldn’t have explained my feelings. With a curious, heavy hunger, I poured over the pictures and messages in all of these books, even the popular Where The Wild Things Are, which also seemed a bit twisted for the squeaky-clean, don’t-question-authority, conservative fa├žade of my childhood home.

Once, I borrowed Higgelty, but I knew enough to avoid taking home In the Night Kitchen. As far as I know, my mother never saw it. In 1974, the book had been banned in several states; our librarian was either a hippie or a very distracted lady, like my mother. Maurice inspired me to question my world; his world had different rules. Sometimes, children just enjoyed the moment and didn’t worry about whether they were going to heaven or hell. Rules were broken or thrown away. Characters who questioned the meaning of life may have initially feared being eaten, but eventually everything worked out satisfactorily.

In some ways, I haven’t changed much. If someone had told my ten-year-old self that Maurice was gay (of course, he had not yet revealed his sexuality in the 70s), I wouldn’t have known what it meant, but if I had, I’m sure I would have smiled and said, “That’s why I like him. He doesn’t do what everybody tells him to do.”

Maurice has said that when he was a young man, he kept his sexuality secret in order to please his mother. He was sure that she would have been unhappy with him if she had known the truth. Certainly, when I was young, it seemed to me that my mother was not happy with any sexuality. As a result, all of my growing up work had to be done in secret. In my head. Without answers to many pressing questions. But also in the cool comfort of the library, at the children’s table, with the gentle guidance of an author who, like me, just couldn’t see the point in all the rules.

A special "thank you" goes out not only to those who sent us submissions, but also to everybody who loves books -- whether from libraries, local bookstores, or Aunt Edith's shelves. Thanks for reading!