Why Bookstores Are More Than “Just” Bookstores

What’s not to love about independent bookstores? From walls of books to author events to personalized recommendations, they’re a book lover’s paradise. But did you know that many bookstores provide more than “just” books? Read on for five ways bookstores are vital to local communities!

They provide free, life-saving resources… 

Worker-owned bookstore Bluestockings Cooperative in New York City has a mission rooted in care and mutuality, which shows in all of its initiatives, especially its Hot Food Serve program and free store. 

The monthly community Hot Food Serve is co-hosted with We the People, a Brooklyn-based mutual aid organization. On the first Tuesday of every month, they ask people to bring hot cooked meals, drinks, and cutlery or make donations to help serve over 200+ people! 

Bluestocking’s free store holds items such as snacks, hygiene products, and clothing—all of which are completely free to anyone who comes into the store. Bluestockings is always in need of donations, and encourages people to learn more about getting involved! 

…and childcare to help parents. 

East Village Bookshop in Sacramento, California hosts an Afterschool Reading Club that goes beyond reading. Kids can choose to read, do homework, spend time with friends, or partake in the daily activity (which might look like painting, beading, nature crafts, and much more)! 

Many bookstores raise money for local or national charities.

Whether demonstrating ongoing support for local organizations or timely causes, many bookstores across the States raise donation funds. 

Books Are Magic, owned by author Emma Straub and Michael Fusco-Straub, recently demonstrated its support for the #TransRightsReadathon by raising funds for the Trans Health Legal Fund. The store encouraged readers to amplify stories by trans authors and donated 10% of each sale from books on its Trans and Gender Expansive Faves list. Books Are Magic also got staff involved, donating $10 for every book employees read! 

Housing Works, an organization that aims to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS, also has a bookstore in New York City. Completely volunteer run and selling only donated stock, 100% of the profits go toward the Housing Works mission. 

They’re great spaces to meet others with shared interests!

Love something in particular? Whether you’re a romance-aficionado, horror lover, or admire all things food, there’s a bookstore for that. Cookbook specialty stores like Now Serving in Los Angeles partner with local restaurants to best display a chef’s cooking, and many others have on-site kitchens for cooking demonstrations. 

There’s even a store for pickle lovers! Sweet Pickle Books in New York City accepts book donations in exchange for pickles! 

And they provide safe spaces through community events. 

Located in Madison, Wisconsin, A Room of One’s Own is a local, independent, feminist bookstore (you may have seen the store’s viral social media posts, such as a flowchart of Octavia Butler reading suggestions). The store hosts open mics, including a recent one for queer and trans community members! 

On the other side of the country, The Salt Eaters Bookshop in Inglewood, California has started hosting Rent Parties to not only raise funds to help the store stay open, but also provide community space for dancing and socializing! Additionally, the store has hosted Black Queer Speed Dating events and writing workshops.  

Photos by Jordan Nakamura 

When the only library in Oak Park, a neighborhood in Sacramento, California, closed in the 1970s, nonprofit bookstore Underground Books opened to ensure community access to books and a welcoming gathering space. Since, the store has hosted book signings, events, and much more—including a celebrated pop-up featuring local Black entrepreneurs! Routinely, small Black-owned businesses sell their products at the store, whether it be candles, beauty products, or other unique goods. 

Independent bookstores help local communities thrive, and though supporting them can be a matter of accessibility and privilege, we hope to make it easier! You can support your bookstore of choice with your Libro.fm audiobook purchases.

Check out our Bookstore Finder map to see our 2,000+ bookstores partners. 

How is your local bookstore invaluable to you and your community?

Let us know in the comments!

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