Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Farewell to Borders

I believe in bookstores. There's something so soothing about them, even when they are crammed with people and music. I love to wander bookshelves looking at the new fiction bestsellers, the latest memoirs, the quirky non-fiction. Finding an old favorite I had pushed to the back of my memory, only to discover it at the bookstore, maybe with a new foreword, or new illustrations. I love the smell of fresh coffee, the stacks of brand new books, the little toys and novelties. I could spend hours reading greeting cards and magazine covers, wanting to take home each and every one.

I used to work at a bookstore. Almost every day at least one person would come in and say, "Working in a bookstore would be my dream job." Bookstore jobs are often idealized and there is plenty of hard, discouraging work that goes into them. Books are hard to keep in saleable condition and even harder to keep organized in just the right way. Working in a bookstore is not easy, but even in the midst of difficulties it was the best job I ever had, definitely my dream job.

I loved my bookstore, Borders Albuquerque Westside. (Before that, I loved working at Borders in Santa Fe.) I loved unpacking boxes of brand new books, putting them on display, and talking about them with friends, customers, co-workers. I loved discovering new music. I loved walking in the door every day and smelling newly ground coffee. I loved working with the staff. I can't imagine my life without the authors I discovered while working at my bookstore, among them Lisa Tucker, Keri Hulme, and Markus Zusak. I found and was introduced to musicians like Shannon McNally, The Medieval Baebes, Erin McKeown, Burach, and Susheela Raman.

I have loved meeting people through my bookstore. A woman once kept me on the phone for 20 minutes telling me about her plans for redecorating her house. A musician invited me to her concert when she came through town. Billy Bob Thornton gave a concert at my store in Santa Fe the day he released one of his CDs. I met the man who would become my husband at my bookstore. We were married just a few months before my store closed. I worked with many varied, wonderful people, some of whom, I am fortunately still friends with, even though we no longer have a bookstore together. Many of us are lucky enough to now work in the library system, a welcoming home for the Borders orphans.

It was devastating to lose our bookstore when the first round of Borders closures shut down Borders Westside back in April. Now all Borders stores are closing, or have closed, and it's been so hard to see a company I used to love to work for shutting its doors forever. It's terrible to be split up from the people I used to work with every day, from the regulars I enjoyed chatting with, from the building we worked in for so long, and tried so hard to make as welcoming as possible.

I love the library, which I have used my entire life, and now am happy to work at. I love my new e-reader and the convenient way it slips into my purse for easy reading whenever I have a spare minute. But I miss my bookstore every day, and I don't believe that new technology will be the death of every bookstore in the world. Some things like coloring books or cookbooks just don't have an appeal on reader devices. Although for months it was hard for me to walk into another one, I hope we don't lose bookstores forever, as they are a great source to have. The community that builds up around a bookstore must be seen to be believed. Losing this sense of family has been the hardest thing of all.

In Albuquerque we are still lucky to have many great bookstores. I urge everyone in the city to stop by one of them and browse around. Find that treasured book (or any other item) you can't live without and buy it! It's truly amazing the variety of bookstores we have around the city. Here are the links to just a few of my favorites, but I know this isn't all there is out there.

Page One carries a variety of new and used books. There has rarely been a time when I have been to Page One to find a book available for purchase as a used copy as well as a new one. Take a peek into their rare book room if you are so inclined.

Alamosa Books is the newest bookstore in Albuquerque. I took my first trip inside a few months ago and was agog at all the fun things they had! The focus is mostly on children's books and toys, but there are plenty of adult books to look through as well. Their stationary and gift wrap were among the loveliest and most unique I had ever seen. The selection of coloring books will inspire the kid in all of us to dust off our crayons.

Bookworks is conveniently located next to Flying Star on Rio Grande. They have a wonderful selections of greeting cards and tables of new books. Check out their shelf of local children's books, or take a look through their outside tables of goodies. It's hard to leave this place empty handed!

Don's Bookstore is the quintessential neighborhood bookstore, located on San Mateo near Kathryn. This tiny shop, crammed with paperbacks and comics, is family owned and employees will happily talk about books with you. They have a paperback exchange system, and they sell much of their stock used.

This is just a small sampling of the many bookstores in the Albuquerque area. There are many more -- Title Wave Books, Blue Eagle, Alameda Book Exchange, as well as Under Charlie's Covers in Bernalillo, and the bookstores in Rio Rancho. There are more than I have listed, trust me. Take a look around your area and see what events a bookstore might offer. Many of them have programs like book signings, discussions, book clubs, workshops, etc. Find a new book, a new idea, a new friend there. Discover what I was so lucky, for so many years to have -- a world of your making, surrounded by all the ideas and creativity you could hope to find in one place.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

What a great tribute. I'm part of the Borders Diaspora, too, though I left in 2007 during a round of ill-conceived position cuts. (I assume they were ill-conceived, because the position was reintroduced with a different title a few months later.) But it was overall a fantastic company and I met many of my dearest friends there.

I'm so glad the Abq library system has been wise enough to hire such a number of ex-Borders employees. Good people who love books are exactly who should be working for the library. You guys do an amazing job.

For getting my book fix, I have to mention a couple of other great places-- first, there are the fantastic Friends of the Library book sales. Then there's Birdsong on Central (such a great, cozy little store run by wonderful people) and Acequia on 4th Street (with lots of high quality hardcovers and foreign language books).

Anyway, sorry to ramble, but I really appreciate what you wrote here!