Indie Bookstores Matter
by Tony Weller
Independent Bookstore Day began in 2015 to recognize the value of local, independently operated bookstores. It’s a one-day national party that takes place on the last Saturday in April, and this year will be on Saturday, April 27th. Each store's celebration and activities are different, like their booksellers and communities.
Publishers provide exclusive books and literary items that you can only get on Independent Bookstore Day. Not before, and not online, because publishers know indie brick-and-mortar bookstores employ smart readers who discover and illuminate great books. A diverse mix of bookstores guarantees healthy bibliogenetics of culture.
It has become customary for me to make “Bone Garb” on Indie Bookstore Day. I stencil designs on clothing or other objects for persons with courage and something worthy of risk or improvement. The day is almost play for me but the last few years, I over-committed myself, so this year I am asking those who want something stenciled to arrive between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM so there is time to complete what we start. To heighten possibilities and increase aleatory suspense, this year we’ll take names for a dice raffle in which someone will win an elaborate Bone design I will make and deliver at a later date.
Indie Bookstore Day is about bookstores in the physical world, cornucopias of culture, dreams and knowledge, so participation in the dice raffle will require a visit to our store. We’re planning other things too. Watch our social media, read our bi-monthly e-newsletter, Word from Weller’s and join us Saturday, April 27th.
Independent bookstores are community centers run by passionate readers. They are fertile fields where aimless perusal is necessary and rewarding. In a world of tweets and algorithms and pageless digital downloads, bookstores are the crossroads of cultures, providing the distilled essences of the lives of persons local and foreign, living and ancient. Indie bookstores are here to fulfill your intellectual, entertainment, and practical needs.
I am infected with a manageable degree of bibliomania. I do not forget that the original enchantments of books were the information and stories they contained. This magic, the promise or the threat can’t be learned without a reader’s investment, like a magic bean that won’t grow without water. A reader who has been deeply touched, maybe even changed by a great book, sees an unread book as a package of possibility.
When I encounter too many enticing books in too short a period, I become breathless with excitement, and a little anxious about time and the task of prioritization. Smart help in choosing books is a reason I value our booksellers greatly. They are engaged and thoughtful readers, skilled at identifying significant books. When you enter our bookstore, check out the staff favorites display on the right. If you see a book you already love, notice who recommended it; that bookseller may steer you towards other excellent titles.
Last month, we closed for a few days to take inventory. Unlike many retailers, we do it our-selves. The process can be tedious and mind-numbing – beep…beep…beep.. – but the shared duty bonds us, and handling each and every book in a department gives our booksellers a rich sense of what we supply. No one person gets to, or has to, handle it all, but each bookseller gets deep exposure to something. We stock thousands of thoughtfully selected and diverse new, used, and rare books. We hire book enthusiasts, but no two have the same taste or interests. We embrace such culture and we hire knowing that no one knows enough. A bookseller’s education is always incomplete.
I boast about our staff - they are wonderful persons and smart readers. Only a fool would do this difficult work without affection. For over 30 years, hiring booksellers has been largely my responsibility. I have become better at recognizing those who will thrive in the overwhelming wash of information this work requires. If one doesn’t find exhilaration here, one might feel oppressed by regular encounters with the unknown. But for open eyed and minded readers this flow of ideas has a seductive potential, is an intellectual candy store, a thought garden, a buffet of dreams.