My entire life, my one love has been bookstores. From crossing the threshold and immediately becoming surrounded by the sharp, pleasant smell of books to finding a quiet corner to read, book stores have always been my special place of escapism and serenity. This summer as I explored fun summer jobs, I found an opening at a book store near me and was immediately interested. However, one worry plagued me. Would working long hours and dealing with difficult customers destroy the charm of my favorite bookstore? Would spending all day in the same walls expunge the feeling of cherished novelty every time I walked through the doors? The answer, I was to discover, was no. Rather, becoming a bookseller only strengthened my adoration of bookstores, as I discovered the number of perks typical customers never get to experience.
1. Free Books
That’s right, free books! In my three months of working at a bookstore, the only books I actually bought were presents for other people, and somehow I was reading more than I had any other summer since starting college. Previously unbeknownst to me, many publishers send Advanced Reader Editions out to book stores, so sellers are aware of what is to be stocked on their shelves. As a bookseller, I was encouraged to read these books and keep them for free, all while reading stories of which only a handful of select people had access.
2. Community Impact
As a customer, I loved to come into bookstores to see the new releases and find my favorite titles hiding in the back shelves. However, I never got to engage others in conversation about why these books were my favorites. Working in a bookstore, my impact on other individual’s reading choices really astounded me. Now my favorite titles were being sent home tucked under an excited customer’s arm. At my particular bookstore, booksellers even got to pick out a “Staff Rec” to highlight a special read which they thought customers might enjoy. While I have always been a book lover, as a bookseller I got to make an impact on my local literary community, something which gave me confidence as a reader and as a judge of impactful literature.
3. Taste Tester
While not every bookstore has a café within the premise, I was so blessed. The delicious coffee aromas were prone to drift across the store, and during my breaks it was easy to pick up a smoothie while I perused one of our new releases. However, the ultimate benefit of working in a bookstore with a café was the free samples. At many a morning meeting the café workers would bring a new drink for us to try in order to make recommendations to customers. I am not a huge coffee-lover myself, but I still enjoyed the espresso-sized samplers as a way to bond with my café co-workers. Not a hugely adventurous person when it comes to food and drink, I never would have tried these treats myself.
4. Personal Knowledge
Before working as a bookseller, I thought I knew a lot about books. And while I did, I knew a lot about the kind of books I enjoyed. YA authors, female driven plots in fiction, a good mystery with a little bit of romance. And while I was aware of other books that existed outside my realm of favorites, after working as a bookseller, I became aware of the greater scope of murder mystery novels that existed, and could quickly list ten books your pre-teen nephew who only plays video games might like. I had customers who asked for suggestions to send a relative in prison that were interesting enough to entertain, tame enough to not cause any problems with security, but also “manly” enough in the eyes of the other inmates always on the look-out for weaknesses. Mothers who didn’t want their children exposed to magic, first time grandfathers who wanted to track down their childhood favorites to pass on to the next generation. After becoming familiar with books that can appeal to any demographic, any category of person, I am much more aware of a wider range of literature.
5. Self Confidence
Finally, working in a book store has given me confidence. Operating in a team environment, my co-workers depended on me to quickly navigate our system, track down books, master our rather complicated schedule, and give out book suggestions when they themselves were at a loss. Customers would enter our store looking for specific titles, but also for suggestions. One particular customer returned to our store to thank me for the book I suggested for her father who helped break German code in enemy lines in World War II. When in reality, it was her father who I should be thanking, knowing that she trusted me enough to purchase my suggestion and was so happy to seek me out again, boosted my confidence as a bookseller, but also on a higher plane as an individual.