At any conference where librarians gather, they will share plans for what they’re going to after the day’s sessions; these plans always include trips to bookstores and local libraries. This is how I learned about a Vancouver bookstore that shall remain nameless in this post. A librarian that I chatted with during a coffee break told me about an amazing bookstore with a great reputation. The last great bookstore I visited while out of town was Portland’s legendary Powell’s. The bookstore I visited in Vancouver was…not great. In fact, it reminded me of some of the bookstores that I hated in my old hometown.
There seem to be two major kinds of bookstore owners. There are the ones that are capable of running a bookstore like a business: organized, customer-oriented, and unlikely to kill you with a landslide of print. Then there are the bookstore owners who are basically hoarders who reluctantly sell books every now and then. Powell’s is run by the former. This Vancouver bookstore is clearly run by the later. This isn’t to say that bookstore owners can’t be successful if they don’t go mainstream. For example, I would dearly love to visit Brazenhead Books in New York.
My visit to the unnamed bookstore got me thinking about what I love and don’t love about bookstores. I didn’t realize it, but I do have a mental list:
||Do not want:
Basically, I want to visit a bookstore where books are clearly loved and where customers are not despised or merely tolerated. A well-organized bookstore with books in good condition—and maybe a place to sit—will tempt me to buy a lot of books. In the other kind of bookstore, I’m more likely to run for the entrance and pretend I walked into the wrong shop.
* I do this to my own books, but I do not pass these on for resale.