Thursday, August 5, 2010

We're hiring! Or: thoughts on bookstore life

Working in an independent bookstore is the best job I've ever had. EVER. I love the environment, the customers, my co-workers, and the feeling that we are building something of value to the community. After all, we help make available knowledge, entertainment, and a sense of community. I've had other jobs, even other careers, I've sold pets, men's ties, and movie tickets. I've been a counselor and an educator. But the biggest miracle of my life has been that I turned what started as a way to pay for grad school into a vocation, in the broader sense of the word.

And we're hiring! You're welcome to go here and fill out an application. But beware: more than a love of reading is necessary to work in a bookstore. In fact, it's highly unlikely that you're going to be reading much, if at all, at work. Here's some thoughts on life in an independent bookstore from the manager of the Twig Bookstore in San Antonio:

"It is a fantasy to think that you can sit behind a counter and read until a customer comes up to pay for a book. Bookselling requires physical and mental stamina. Ordering books requires poring over catalogues with publishing representatives, vendors, and authors. These days a bookseller must have a comfort level with various computer programs from point of sale programs to search engines and publication designs. Boxes of books come daily that must be unboxed, received, and shelved. Organizational skills go beyond alphabetizing. Marketing books once they are in takes retail and design sense. Shelves must be culled of books that are not selling and returned to the publishers or authors. And there is always dusting and sweeping to be done. Oh yeah, and then read, read, read. I used to feel like all I had time to read was the back of a book. After a year as manager that has improved somewhat.

"I have found booksellers to share a common ideal about the world. We care deeply about our communities, about the power of the written word throughout the centuries, the importance of sharing the stories of our human condition. We are finding and even creating new ways to connect with each other, between various organizations and businesses, in partnerships and special projects."

To this list of things to do I would add: playing detective for vaguely remembered but much-desired books, holding back the chaos of the children's section, being ready for whatever questions or problems arrive at your counter and going the extra mile EVERY TIME, and being pretty whippy on the computer too.

Still the best job I've ever had.

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