Friday, November 12, 2010

Outside the Box is Where I Live

This line, midway through season one, was the reason I had to stop watching Battlestar Galactica. I know that mortally offends some people -- my apologies. But it's not a well written line.

Never mind. I've been thinking today about alternatives, other ways of doing things, things outside of boxes. For instance, I did a reading at Pacific Lutheran University's bookstore Thursday night. Their bookstore rocks so much harder than a) most campus bookstores and b) even most bookstores period. Their bookstore lives outside the campus bookstore box. How so?

1) It isn't located in the student union or even on campus. It's located two blocks from main campus on a busy street and also in a strip mall so that other people, people who are not students, might go. It even has its own name: Garfield Book Company.

2) It has, front and center when you walk in, a climber with sliding board plus some little tables with toys. Before I had a child, I imagined that you'd bring your kids to the bookstore and plop them in the children's section where they'd read quietly to themselves and then you'd let them pick one book to take home and all would be right with the world. Then I had a kid and realized that a children's section in a bookstore is no place for a child who will run around pulling all the books off the shelves and flipping them over the shoulder like Bret Boone. Having a sliding board, someplace to climb, and toys to play with? Well, that's much more promising. Kids who like to go to bookstores and bookstores with indoor (and thus dry) play structures make for parents who patronize bookstores.

3) They also have a fireplace, a lovely, full-size coffee shop (with gelato and, soon evidently, wine), and a whole floor dedicated to being a real bookstore while the upstairs is reserved for being a college bookstore (i.e. sweatpants, water bottles, and everything else on which you might write "PLU" plus books for courses).

4) The bathrooms are clean and nice and have those toilets where you press one button for half flush and another for full. Do decent bathrooms make that much of a difference? You bet.

5) They have a designated space for readings and community gatherings with the aforementioned fireplace, sofas and comfy chairs (with swivel writing desks for note taking), and a full kitchen for their brilliant book club Food for Thought which reads books about food BUT ALSO brings in a chef to cook stuff from the books. Book clubs through bookstores? Middling attendance. Book clubs with food? Much bigger draw. Plus, they've got the double draw going -- community and college campus, students, faculty, staff, and friends.

In a word: smart. We need more community, independent bookstores. Like everything and everyone these days, they're on the brink of not making it. So I'm saying, maybe outside the box is where they should live.

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