From Brad Smith, owner of Paulina Springs Books in Sisters and Redmond, OR:
What makes for a truly great bookstore? We recently hosted David Moskowitz, author of Wolves in the Land of Salmon for a spectacular evening with an audience of more than 100 people. During his talk David commented he loved supporting independent bookstores through his presentations. He said while waiting for the evening to begin he spent time looking over the store and found it to be a really good bookstore. As a proud member of the store I told him thank you for the praise before he left.
Afterward I was thinking about what it meant to be a good bookstore. Obviously, what I think and what you think may be different. In fact, it could be wildly different. Some people perceive Amazon as the world’s greatest bookstore. Many thousands of people really value the atmosphere and services of Barnes & Noble. Tons of folks here in the NW understandably perceive Powell’s as the best there is. And we literally hear from folks every week that Paulina Springs is their favorite bookstore (ie, they think it is a pretty good bookstore.)
So, what makes for a good bookstore? In my opinion, the first and foremost element is the degree to which the store succeeds at stocking books of interest to the shoppers coming through the door.
For small bookstores such as ours, carrying the right titles is challenging given our limited space and money. Having titles patrons come in specifically looking for is less daunting, as special orders generally arrive within a day or two if we are out of what you came for. The more meaningful goal for us, and a far more nuanced challenge, is stocking books you are interested in “discovering.” We strive to cater to the browser in you. Almost daily we hear, “I can always find new books of interest to me when I browse at Paulina Springs.” That is music to our ears.
Second most important element to being a great bookstore is being a good member of the community. We strive to achieve this through contributing to community aspirations (volunteering in civic and community endeavors), making donations to many dozens of community organizations annually, providing a venue for authors and readers to meet and converse, and bringing fun events to the community (Waldo, etc.). And this is just a sampling.
Powell’s is perhaps the largest independent bookstore in the USA and they contribute in a big way to the communities in which they are members. One tiny, but meaningful, example of this can be found in Fossil. Michael Powell, founder of the store, regularly vacationed near Fossil. Recognizing what a struggle it is for rural residents to have easy access to books, Michael opened a branch of sorts in the Country Flowers Soda Fountain, creating a literary oasis for the community. Was it done for the money? Of course not; it was a way to give back to community.
At Paulina Springs Books we are ever grateful for the wonderful community of readers that frequent our stores repeatedly. In truth, you are the real source of our being a good bookstore.
Booklovers, what do you think makes a good bookstore?