Sunday, February 27, 2011

Loosely Bound: Tales of My Literary Life (2)

Loosely Bound: Tales of My Literary Life (2)
My Life in Bookstores

My friend Rachel came up with this idea to share with all of you some of my experiences in my literary life. My first post was about my involvement in book clubs and at that time, I introduced to all of you my current book club, The Ladies Book Club.

Today I wanted to write a little about my career in and love for bookstores. With the current trend in e-readers, the always steady rise of Amazon and the closing of over 200 brick and mortar Borders stores, I felt it was fitting to talk about the wonderful years I spent selling books.

For those new to my blog, I will start by telling you all that I worked for 11 years in a bookstore. I have never disclosed who or what or where because, to me, a bookstore is a bookstore. No, they are not all the same but they should all have the same purpose; to place a good book in the hands of readers. It didn't matter to me to say which one I worked at but that I loved what I did.

First off, when I started in bookselling, I knew nothing about books. I thought I did and I even thought I knew what a passionate reader was. I was wrong. I not only learned a ton about the product of books but I met so many wonderful people who could talk my ear off for hours about their love of reading.

I was in heaven!

Very early on in my career in books, I became a book buyer. I was outgoing, friendly, bubbly and full of spunk, I was told. The powers that be thought I would be great out in the community and working with publishers. Um, okay?! Let's go. I used my lack of knowledge at that time and my ability to schmooze to begin my partnership with the publishing world. I lived in Boston then and I was taken in by so many wonderful local, small publishers. Oh the excitement they had when I asked them about their books! They were more than happy to put their books on my shelves. and I was more than happy to help them.

From this early start I learned that without one, there can not be the other. Without publishers and writers, there would be no books; without books, there would be no readers; without readers to buy those books, there would be no bookstores.

There is nothing like working at a bookstore, especially when your passion is books. I would wake excited to go to work, excited to see the new books that would come in, excited to talk to my co-workers about what they were reading, and excited to talk to customers about books they SHOULD read!

It was hard work that required muscle, time management, attention to detail and good service skills. It was fun to figure out what books were it, what books to recommend, what the latest wave would be. It was fun working with publishers on the early buzz of a book or getting a great book in for a display.

A bookstore is like a second home to some and to be able to work happily in them for as long as I did makes me feel incredibly grateful. Books are not just retail and unfortunately, some people treat it as such. Unfortunately, the wave of business in general forces the customer to be less than friendly because they want that "best deal" and they want it now.

I'm not naive to think that the atmosphere of some brick and mortar bookstores has changed through the years. It has had to, just like any business. But they are not ready to go away. We as readers have to fight to keep that alive. Big box or independent, the individuals that work selling books should be supported. To be able to pull a great book off the shelf and place it in the hands of a customer and look them in the eye and tell them why that book is your favorite is a simply marvelous experience. I could tell when I made that connection. I could tell when I got through.

It felt right. It felt like the right place to be for me. I miss it.

I spent my 11 years in bookstores moving from buyer to manager. Though being a manager was hard at times, it made me understand the business of bookselling a lot better. That's why I stand by the much needed support for the lasting booksellers at the brick and mortar stores.

Though I have moved on to this blog and to the world of libraries, I still carry that passion inside of me, that desire to recommend and talk to people about books. I just feel more comfortable around people who love books as much as I do. For 11 years, I never felt out of place, like I didn't belong. Through changing business and rough economy, the people and motivation around me remained the same. Great people. Great books.

Maybe this post does not go into the detail I originally had in mind to discuss about life at a bookstore. Maybe because it always boils down to the passion for me and that all came out as a typed.

I loved my time working at a bookstore. It has made me who I am today; the person, the reader, the recommender.

Do me a tiny little favor. Support all bookstores, independent and big box. Support the booksellers that open those boxes, stock those shelves, make those fun displays, write out passionate Staff Recommendation cards, and read furiously on their lunch breaks.

Imagine me with my crazy big hair (pictured above), jazz hands and excitement as the bookseller near you while you browse. I just might say, "Looks like you may need a wonderful book to read. Perhaps I can recommend a few?!!"

I thank you for reading my ramblings on my life in bookstores. It became a passionate pile of mushiness but alas, that's how I feel when I enter those doors; doors to any bookstore, that is.

Happy Reading dear readers, and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child


Misha said...

It was so much fun reading about your experiences. Thanks for sharing them with us! If I could, I would love to work in a bookstore. I think I would love being surrounded by books and book-lovers all day :)

TheBookGirl said...

Wonderful post Michelle...your passion for all things book-related shines through.
My second "career" has been as a board member of a friends of the library assn that runs a used bookshop with all proceeds benefitting our library system; I have been so happy doing this, for me it has been much more fufilling that my previous professional life :)

Jenny said...

Sounds like it would be so fun to work in a bookstore!

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I worked in a book shop before becoming a teacher. I loved the job itself but unfortunately the management and therefore morale of the staff was terrible so it wasn't a long-term job option for me. I would do it again one day if the opportunity came up though.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading. I truly loved it, though hard at times, it was the best way to spend over a decade of my life.

Take care,

Gina said...

Totally agreed on the "no names" business. Connecting readers with books they'll love is what really matters at the heart of it all. The recent closures always prompt some customers to ask..."so are you happy about it" ...because they are competition....but you know what? The answer is no. Any day a bookstore closes is a sad one...we lose another piece of the puzzle helping spread the word about great works in literature. How can one be "happy" about that?

Great post Michelle....thanks for sharing a look into your life with books. ^_^

Tales of Whimsy said...

What a great post!
1. LOVE your hair.
2. You're so cute :) I could pinch your cheeks!
3. I had no idea. A Book Buyer sounds like a dreamy job!
Thanks for sharing something about your self. It was a real treat to read.

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

I too worked in a bookstore for 2 years prior to the recession...and then the bottom fell out and I was one of the newcomer employees :-( however, I so loved my time in the bookstore! I would give an arm, a leg - anything to get that back - what is it about that type of environment that draws us? Your post was so wonderful to read and reminisce myself...thank you for sharing!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I loved learning more about you and your career fun

Rachel said...

There are times that I miss working in a bookstore, and I wonder with the wave of e-readers out now if there will be any brick-and-mortar bookstores in the future. I hope so.

Lisa said...

If only they could clone you in all of your enthusiasm and passion, maybe bookstores would all be thriving!

Carol said...

It would be a dream to work in a bookshop or library when my youngest goes to full time school.


Sarah M said...

Your passion for books really comes through. As does your bubbly personality. I bet everyone you met walked away with a great impression of you.