Samuel Clemens, more famously known as Mark Twain, once wrote, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” More than a century later, despite the popularity of Amazon.com and all things electronic, independent bookstores and the physical, handheld book can make the same claim as the now deceased creator of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. As chronicled by Zachary Karabell on Slate.com, sales at indie shops have increased over the past three years after taking a dramatic nosedive at the turn of the century.
Likewise, after a steady decline in usage during the early aughts, some local libraries have made subtle shifts to their environment that has made significant dividends. In an article for the New York Times, Katharine Q. Seelye observes, “Many libraries have become bustling community centers where talking out loud and even eating are perfectly acceptable… Along with their new offerings, libraries are presenting a dramatically more open face to the outside world, using lots of glass, providing comfortable seating, as much for collaborative work as solitary pursuits, and allowing food and drink.” The reimagining and renovation of what libraries are and what they can be have transformed the local library into a popular hangout spot once again, as evidenced by the increase in physical and virtual visits to libraries across the country. Panos Mourdoukoutas suggests that local libraries need to take it a step further in partner up with Starbucks for the coolness makeover to be complete.
I wouldn’t go that far, but the sentiment is undeniable: Local libraries and indie bookstores are attractive places to be again.
And this is good news for readers and writers alike. Many local libraries and independent bookstores offer public reading events and books signings, which allows readers to have intimate access to the writers in their area. Also, these events allow local writers to increase their visibility and to network with other talented authors in a particular region. These events are a lot less formal than a traditional writer’s conference and are generally free of admission.
If you are in the Philadelphia area and would like to attend one such event, here are a couple of options in the next few weeks:
Authors’ Brunch at The Spiral Bookcase, 112 Cotton Street Philadelphia, PA 19127. Saturday, September 20 at 11AM-2PM.
Jeff VanderMeer: Southern Reach Trilogy, Central Library, 1901 Vine Street Philadelphia, PA 19103. Thursday, September 25 at 7:30 PM.
Charles Blow: Fire Shut Up in My Bones, Central Library, 1901 Vine Street Philadelphia, PA 19103. Tuesday, September 30 at 7:30 PM.