Earlier this week I had such a great afternoon I knew I had to share it with all my readers AND tell you to stop reading and head to your local university. OK, don’t get in the car but at least google their bookstore. Why? Because, it could turn out to be the kind of place you escape to and not the stodgy, textbook filled tomb of your college days. I’m aging myself right now but when I was going to college (all three times) the bookstore was a ‘text’ book store. Yes, you could get school themed sweatpants and enough Skittles to make a meal but any kind of reading beyond Norton’s Anthology (still have mine) or Gray’s Anatomy (which is a real book, not just a TV show- who knew?) was hard to come by.
So, it was with embarrassment and delight that I was shown around the wonderland that is the University of Washington bookstore—three stories that have the look and feel of a department store or a high end boutique plus they have oodles of books! There are iPad accessories, bags, glassware, perfume, jewelry, fun book accessories, and a cafe. They even have a blog, The Shelf Life, so you can stay up-to-date on bookish news and events. There are all the necessities for an education but they are beautifully mixed in with the luxuries that can make college living special, like candles, decorative art, and Moleskine notebooks (makes me want to stop typing right now and go back to writing by hand).
If that’s not enough, how about a Clinique make-up counter?!
A Clinique counter?! Who loves make-up and skincare more than young women?
Don’t get me wrong, the University Book Store is one stop shopping for almost anyone who shops but, just as importantly, it is a full service bookstore with all the amenities booklovers look for: online shopping, free shipping for orders over $20, book buy-back, free parking with purchase, and new and used books (so you can save money and buy more books!). They have the largest children’s department in the area. The extra bit, the intangible that will make you go back again and again is the creative spirit behind the business. Everyone I met (and not just when I was with a manager) genuinely seemed to love both books and their job. This is a display of Valentine’s Day books. It’s a blind date—all the books are wrapped in fun paper covered with a brief description of the book itself. I’m pretty certain these are more fun and interesting than any of the blind dates I ever went on.
Image courtesy of University Book Store
I’m getting gushy so I’ll stop. University Book Store is a prime example of an independent bookstore done right. I’ve worked for a corporate bookstore and as a book freak I can tell you that knowledge of or interest in books is not a requirement. In fact, by and large, it works against you as you stand behind a register for hours and do nothing more than take people’s money. It makes you sad and this bookstore makes me nothing but happy.
Check out their video, which kind of sums up the mindset of the store. This is what independent bookstores are about. If you can find one in your community (try your local colleges/universities!), support it. Please.