Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Bookshelf

This past week I was driving to the grocery store and just inside my periphery I saw it,
the propped door and the lit "Open" sign, right beside the paper ones announcing "Going out of business."

I had thought The Bookshelf to be closed for weeks, and indeed, it would have been better for my bank account had it been true, but it turns out they were operating on another of a series of extensions to clear out the store and make just a few more dollars before boxing up the rest of the stock and leaving the building empty for the next small business that couldn't quite swing the within-city-limits tax rates.

The sign made me feel happy, sad, and guilty and all before I could even turn the car around.
I was glad that by chance they were still open, but I knew it couldn't be for much longer and that I should have stopped in earlier. I know those people, I have talked to those people, and boy, have I unloaded a lot of used books on those people.
Also, boy, have I purchased a lot of used books from those people.

And it's a nice place.
Not nice in the pristine, shiny coffee-bar type way, but nice in a homey way. It's clean, but with the dust and smell of thousands of books in the air. Neat, but in a clutter-y way, with boxes of unsorted books stacked in the corners. Well lit, but not with that obnoxious bright fluorescent assault lighting. Sure, there are a few fixtures, but the natural light coming in the windows makes all the difference. Quiet, except for the conversation if Jim happens to be working.
And Jim is an interesting guy.
He wears shorts to work in March and speaks snippets of other languages (learned from books) and torments your children (but only a little) and makes good recommendations if you ask and knows the location of almost any book you like in a store that changes by the day.

Julian is more reserved. Helpful, and he'll talk to you if you really are a book person and not a "tourist" in the store. He's got a lanky kid who hangs around the store sometimes and is also helpful when called upon to lift boxes of books in or out of a car trunk. There are other employees and volunteers who pop in and out to help with stocking the shelves and moving things around.

And books, of course, thousands of them. All genres, ages, and conditions. On shelves and counters, in stacks and boxes, piled in corners. Yellowed Louis L'Amour and Agatha Christie just around the corner from Marion Zimmer Bradley and Douglas Adams, and throughout, hundreds of obscure authors with big dreams who just didn't quite make enough noise to get noticed in all the chaos.

Kind of like The Bookshelf.
I'm glad to hear there's been a low roar at word of the closing that indicates some people are paying attention and are displeased. I wonder where they've been all this time and if they have money and hope they really will step up to the plate now.
I mean, The Bookshelf, in it's current state, is on its way out, but there is already talk of re-opening it in another location, jazzing it up and adding a record section and forcing it into the social media spotlight because, well, facts are facts, now you need coffee and seating and hipsters to keep something like this alive. Unless you want another Sheetz down the street from the Sheetz or a third Panera or yet another damned college bar.

So, anyway, if you think that, just maybe, a college town ought to have a local bookstore, get out to Greenbag Road this week and add your name to the email notification list, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. And while you're in there, buy a book.


  1. Yes, we need an independent bookstore! Also, I would have spent more money in that place, if Julian didn't tell me he took home almost every book I went in specifically looking for. Got any Robert Howard? "Oh yeah, we got some a while back - I snapped it up." Seemed like every time.... Oh well. Thanks for letting us know the place is still open, I too thought it was closed.

  2. I miss it being over in Suburban Lanes plaza. I bought and and sold countless books there on "store credit" over the years from high school into adulthood. I just never got used to it being where it is, or I would have stopped in there more.

    I'll have to head on in soon to say goodbye, or goodbye until next time. Jim is a Morgantown book legend IMO.

  3. If I understood correctly, the next incarnation of The Bookshelf will likely be in Fairmont, and it would contain maybe a coffee shop and a section for vinyl. I hope I am wrong about the location, as that is a drive I do not care to make, although it would be nice to see that other little bookstore receive its comeuppance.
    "Sure, we take donations, but we don't offer store credit."