Monday, April 26, 2010

My Treehouse

Have I mentioned before that my "office" is a raised platform in our back room? It's big enough for a desk and a couple of filing cabinets and that's about it. It has no door of any kind, so I have a perpetual open door policy. It would be very claustrophobic but for its window which is wide and has a view over the entire store right up to the front doors and out onto the street, even. Not many people browsing in the store even notice that I'm up here. There is much to see and hear, both in our back room which is a very busy place and "out on the floor", as we call it.

So just think of all the books and other goodies you find here. Every item comes in the back door, literally. From there it all goes off to various places in the back room or downstairs. Downstairs means via a conveyor belt which dates to 50 years ago when this store was a grocery market. Mercifully, the conveyor has held up with minimal maintenance all these years. After being put into our computer system and priced, everything then goes out to the selling floor. This requires the diligent labor of numerous busy booksellers. Besides all of that activity, there are many discussions, problems solved and overall orchestration of the store's workings going on at all times in this same back room. Phones are ringing, printers are printing, book carts are rattling. It is quite the beehive and my ears are well-attuned to all the buzzing.

The other perspective, looking and listening out into the store, is equally "buzzy". I can see customers browsing, hear parts of many conversations about books and not, and notice when someone seems to need help finding something or the line is getting long at the registers and send help. At times, I feel a bit like an air traffic controller or a juggler. It's fun to make things work well and efficiently. This way of working can lead to a bit of craziness in trying to stay focused on larger projects. Each day has many, many interruptions. But multi-tasking is indigenous to the times we live in, right?

Since my office is just above the kids' section, I am witness to all manner of hilarity. Scenarios range from delightful vignettes of a toddler being read to by an older sibling to a middle-grader lost in a chapter book to a diligent little guy moving all the furniture around to a child repeatedly saying "Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom." whilst said parent is deeply engaged in using her Blackberry. We have some big stuffed literary characters for kids to bond with and a fanciful faux tree to shade them. There's a bench and a rocking chair and room for strollers of many sizes and makes. Occasionally, kids will toss books all over the place uncorrected by the accompanying adult sadly ruining those books. But our great kids' booksellers keep that to a minimum while doing a ton of recommending to all and sundry. It's all part of the observed bookstore life.

It's delightful to see our aisles full of booklovers and booktalkers and book buyers. And overhearing customers recommending titles to friends or perfect strangers is always a treat. People just seem to like being here in a familiar, comfortable gathering place. No purchase required for that. It's what makes stores like ours more than just a place to buy something. It's a place of learning and connecting. It's lively and fun. It's just a really cool place.

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