Bibliophiles, bookstores and endings

My mom was a school librarian for 30 years. She retired before 60 as she began working in her early 20s and never stopped. When she told me she was calling it quits, I teased her all the time. “You’re not ready to retire,” I always said. I couldn’t see this smart, vibrant woman no longer getting up and going to work every day.  My picture of retirement was limited to occasional volunteering and philanthropic work. Traveling. All great things she’d done in the past, but things I couldn’t picture her doing in lieu of being in a school library.

By her late 50s she insisted kids had changed so much and librarian duties had evolved into things outside her sphere of interest – she loved books –  it simply was no longer her dream job.

As it turns out, she had a plan. A brand new shopping center was going up nearby, and it promised a Barnes & Noble in the line up of big box stores. Every time we drove past the site, she pointed and smiled, sharing her post-retirement dream to work at the bookseller and enjoy the discounts.

She retired and became a part-time media specialist (I knew it!), filling in for those who needed to be out on leave or what have you. But she never did make it behind the counter of the Barnes & Noble. One Memorial Day weekend, she had a heart attack. Less than 24 hours later, she died. That was 2003, the same year that long-awaited store finally opened. It always saddens me to know she missed it.

It’s 2013. That Barnes & Noble recently went the way of many large box booksellers these days – kaput. In fact, July marked the end of its lease, and a wig shop is said to be on the way to take its place.

I know some feel as if the big sellers are  getting their just rewards, and if people  bought enough books from the brick and mortar stores, they’d still be around anyway. But I don’t have the nostalgia for the community bookseller. We didn’t have one aside from the used book shop in the plaza across from the park. And that plaza has been decrepit for nearly 20 years now.

The Barnes & Noble was our community space. You could scarcely go in it and not see someone you knew. Or if you were going there to work or meet a friend, you had to pray for a space to sit since everyone else was there, too. Lots of wheeling and dealing, coffee sipping, book writing, and studying for exams, story time for children, book signings, and even dates took place in that store.  And yes, people bought books, too. And in that mix, nurturing her love of books while helping other people feed theirs? That’s where momma wanted to be.

But now she and it are both gone.

B&N Closed

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5 thoughts on “Bibliophiles, bookstores and endings

  1. Nik I remember that weekend so well. It was a strange series of events…celebrating Duri’s graduation and yet dealing with the loss of a 2nd mom. Even still your mother would have loved working at B&N, it would have been a perfect match (but where would she have kept the books). I was so surprised to find out they were closing and even more shocked to realize it was not due to low sales, but due to an increase in the rent. I wish businesses would look at the greater picture and realize what really matters and it’s not another wig shop.

    1. Girl. I totally forgot about that. I was in such a serious DAZE for about two weeks. It was like, whoa. Tell your peeps I said hi. I’m on the road quite a bit so I’m rarely over there. :-/

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