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February 29, 2008

View from a Small (AKA Tiny) Resort Bookstore

Posted by carol
A few years ago when I was vacationing on the Outer Banks I stopped by Duck's Cottage, a small bookstore/coffeeshop in Duck, North Carolina. I told Jamie Layton, one of the store's managers, that I like to frequent bookstores when I travel as I own a company that has a number of websites about books. She shared that one of her favorite websites was, not knowing that it was one in The Book Report Network. Needless to say this comment sparked a conversation that sparked a friendship that has flourished over many more visits to the Outer Banks. I love talking books with Jamie --- and she also is one very inspirational water aerobics teacher. When I join her class it becomes an exercise class/book group discussion as participants share what they are reading. Enjoy this post where Jamie weighs in on "bookstore point of view." -- Carol Fitzgerald

I'm the manager of a small, independent bookstore on North Carolina's Outer Banks. When I say 'small' please read that as 'tiny' --- about five hundred square feet dedicated to books, the remaining four hundred is the best coffee shop in town.

Due to these size limitations, I have to be very selective in deciding which titles will grace our shelves. For instance, after five years of selling books in a resort area I no longer bother with personal finance, self-help or diet books. People on vacation don't want to think about any of these subjects much less purchase a book telling them how to start saving $9.99 a day by buying a $24.95 book when they're spending $500 a day for a week at a beach house that's probably more luxurious than their own home.

So I have to really pick and choose and wade through the miasma of new titles constantly belched forth from publishers. I've developed an inventory that I refer to, with pride, as 'an eclectic, interesting selection you won't find in every other bookstore'. When I was asked for a description of what this monthly blog would be about, I really couldn't settle on any one topic though I considered many ---book clubs, the musings and meditations of a bookseller, my personal bestseller list for the month, politics, fashion, prose...the list kept getting longer and longer.

Finally I realized that my blog post, like myself and the bookstore, would be a constantly changing, ever evolving affair --- an eclectic, interesting mix of thoughts on a wide variety of topics --- most book related, but sometimes not.

With politics in the air, I find that people's personal leanings show themselves in very peculiar ways. I constantly am amazed by customers who come into my store and take it upon themselves to rearrange my shelves and displays in order to better match their political preferences. I can't tell you how many times I find Hillary Clinton's biography turned backwards on a shelf. Or a liberal author's work that has been set out on an easel replaced with Bill O'Reilly's latest diatribe. If I put Bill Clinton's Giving or anything by Bob Woodward in a prominent position, we are verbally accused of being too liberal a bookstore. (Keep in mind, the politics genre only makes up 5% of my inventory, if that). But if I display Ann Coulter up front, I hear as many complaints from the left and, frankly, have to fight my own nausea every time I pass it.

Any small bookstore is going to take on some characteristics of its book buyer and staff and what can I say? I would describe myself as a liberal independent who usually votes Democratic. Do you prefer a faceless big box bookstore with nary a shred of personality that tries to be everything to everyone? And why don't I ever see books turned around in their stores? Would these same people feel comfortable doing that in, say, their lawyer's office? While we're on the subject, I must also tell you I believe children's fiction to be just that --- fiction, which is why I get doubly annoyed when I find all the Harry Potters turned spine inward by some religious zealot who really needs to take a good long look at the Christian Coalition. If Harry Potter promotes magic and witchcraft then should Romeo and Juliet still be taught in 90% of American high schools? Doesn't it promote suicide? Shouldn't we be worried?

Look...there's room for everyone on the planet regardless of political leanings and religious beliefs. Just as my bookstore may be a little left of center, there are plenty of bookstores a bit right of center with the big boys sitting dead center. So please, resist the urge to rearrange and accept the fact that the next person in the door might just be looking for the very book that's making your fingers itch. One last observation --- in a race in which the leading Republican candidate and both Democratic front runners all have books on the shelves there are NO excuses for not getting better acquainted with your candidate.

And be sure to check out my other new blog- -- I'll be back on March 28 with another indescribable custom blend of sheer me.