Sunday, January 25, 2009

it goes away... or, what's it worth to you?

I was trying to figure out what facebook is for besides killing time while I put off writing or some household chore. Then last Monday I saw lots of activity and unexplained comments made to my friend Nancy, with whom I recently reconnected. We attended college together at UW-Milwaukee. In the early 1990s I worked for Harry W Schwartz Bookshops in Milwaukee. Nancy still works there.

But on Monday the employees learned that after 82 years, at the end of March the independent, family-run shop will close. Though it's been years since I worked there, I still feel a fondness for the shop and an appreciation for what it represents in the community of readers and writers. A gathering place with author events hosted by people who love books. Great books.

Just a week before when I was adding a bookshelf to this site, I noticed that it offered a link for people to buy the book from an online bookstore. That's when I posted the note telling you about my favorite local bookstore here in Anchorage. (That would be Title Wave.) Little did I know that my friend's employer was about to close its doors, partly because of the competition from online sales; partly from the current financial problems that face so many Americans.

I know it's easy to shop online and that's why so many people do it. Besides, there are some things that just can't be purchased in Anchorage (like my favorite granola). But if you can get something locally, even if it's to have something ordered by a local shop, it supports local jobs. And those people are our neighbors and their friends and family. And if too many people stop buying locally, shops like the best book store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, go away. And I wonder if that can happen here to my favorite bookstore or to the bike shop where I work.

After all, these are more than just places where people buy things. They are shops where people meet to talk about the things they have in common, to share their passion, whether it is for words or bicycles... or both. These are the places that feed our desires to interact, to be validated, to have contact with like-minded people. These are the places many of us go to experience community.


will said...

I came across the Google connection of Smiley shields and your blog ... Smiley was a friend when we both were in LA. After he moved to Alaska and I left LA we lost contact.

The quote "If I don't see you in the future, I'll see you in the pasture" is definitely something he would say.

You have the link to my blog - if possible can you either send him my blog or send his to me?

I would appreciate it greatly.

bikegirl said...

Hi Bill. Smiley is my favorite biologist & rabble-rouser. I'll call him today.

Funny how for awhile people worried that the web would tear people apart. How beautiful that more often it brings us back together.

Jon and I are enjoying the photos on your blog. He does some woodwork also, but has not attempted chairs.

take care - rose

Anonymous said...

It's very sad that community-focused book shop like Harry Schwartz go out of business.

I attended UW-Milwaukee, and know the book shop very well.

You say it's due to book sales online? If this is true, I'm going to focus on supporting the smaller, locally own bookshop rather than (I feel guilty for mentioning their name).

Cullen Carter

William said...

I think that is quite sad. I won't name the top two (IMO) online-booksellers but, they lack personality and there is none what-so-ever. Much like one of them's purchases of other businesses, ie. Sam Ash, a music-medium seller. A Bookshop is different, they can't have ever print of book an if you want one different then they can order it. There were several different versions of the fabled story of "Monkey" that I bought online. Here, there was a bookwarehouse that had stores in DE and NJ that went out of business for that ghastly B&N with the foul Starbucks in it. That was sad because their prices were better, no decor at all. Less interesting but more so then a WMT. I hope folks in WI get out from infront of the computer (unlike me) and shop locally while they still may have some left of what made that place unique. I hate conglomeration. Best of luck to you and your friend.