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Great moments in bookselling May 7, 2010

Posted by Galaxy in Musings.

There are a lot of reasons to love working in a bookstore–a bookseller is liable to wax poetic, and might even get misty-eyed, enumerating the reasons she loves her job.  “Making a lot of money” is never one of them, but a love of books and writing is usually at the top of the list. Some of the other reasons can be harder to quantify. For me, it’s often small moments with customers that make it worth coming to work each day.

Sometimes, it’s a turn of phrase that strikes me in a particular way. One customer, while perusing our shelves, told me that she waits for a book to call to here, that she was “dowsing for words.” I love that image, and the idea of books calling out in special ways to certain people.

A young teen made my day once when she came in with her sister and began gushing about how she loved books and loved how they smelled. “When I’m old and crippled, I’m going to come in here and just sit and breathe,” she said. It might sound like an odd thing to say, but this girl, with all her joy and bright energy, said it as if it were the most wonderful thing in the world to imagine. I hope this store is still here when she is old and crippled and that there is a chair waiting to welcome her.

I love observing the ways that books bring people together. Complete strangers, overhearing a mention of a title, might walk over to share their excitement about that book. A few weeks ago a customer asked about a book her book group was reading, and another woman held up that very book in her hand, saying, “I’m looking at it right now!” The two struck up a conversation and exchanged contact information, should the second woman be interested in joining the book group. It was one of those reminders as to why it’s important for people to get off of the computer and shop locally–making connections with people, sometimes connections that you weren’t expecting but that will enrich your life.

Seeing the excitement of young readers over books is always a treat. Just yesterday, a young boy came in with a gift card in his hand, searching for a book about horses. He’d just seen the movie The Black Stallion and decided that he wants to be a jockey when he grows up. After handing him a book of horse photos to look at, I did a little more searching and discovered that we had several of the Black Stallion series of novels in the store. When I brought those out to show him, his eyes lit up like birthday candles. He even had enough money on his gift card to get TWO books! That was one happy kid walking out the door, planning to start reading as soon as he got home. My smile, watching him leave, was almost as big as the one stretching from ear to ear on his face.

Working in customer service can be tough some days, but when moments like these make you say, “I love this job,” then the other stuff doesn’t even matter. Well, except as far as you can get a good story out of it…but that might be a post for another day.


1. Stella Johnson - May 13, 2010

As a fellow bookseller at the Galaxy, I couldn’t have put it better. It is a joy to be able to help someone find just the right book – whether it’s right in the shop or whether it has to be special ordered.

I think the times I enjoy most is when someone doesn’t know the name of the book or the author, but has heard the commentary about the book or heard an interview on NPR or other another radio show. Usually the customer knows the gist of the story, so all it takes is a little sleuthing to find the title – it’s like going on a treasure hunt!

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