Indie Bookstore Spotlight: Brookline Booksmith (Brookline, MA)
Welcome to Akashic in Good Company, a weekly column highlighting some of the amazingly talented, hard-working, committed people Akashic has had the pleasure of working with over the past fifteen years. This week we are delighted to feature a virtual tour of one of our favorite indie bookstores, Brookline Booksmith, courtesy of Events Director Jamie Tan!
Brookline Booksmith has been around for over fifty years, and I’ve been here less than three of them. It overwhelms me to think of all the layers of stories that reside here, how differently I see this bookstore versus some of my co-workers who have been here for decades, switching departments and job descriptions and offices more than I could imagine. I’ve heard so many stories about this place, told over the counter, on the sales floor, in the back offices, on the sidewalk, over a beer—I’m entranced by how much this place means to people and how much it has evolved over the years.
I bring this up because I recently did an image search for “Brookline Booksmith” in an attempt to find a specific picture of the store that ran in the Boston Globe a few years back. What I found instead was a series of images I hadn’t seen before, including a really old image of a current bookseller’s boyfriend, a picture of myself and two other booksellers at a spelling bee, and a picture of our store co-owner, Dana Brigham, on a ladder. I found hand-drawn illustrations, different iterations of our events space, and pictures of people I had never seen, posing with our books and standing near our shelves. I didn’t find the picture I was looking for, but I found links to stories that originated at this bookstore, stories I had no idea existed.
The only Brookline Booksmith story I can confidently tell is my own. I walk through this doorway (above) almost every single day, but would I have recognized it in the 1970’s (below) back when it was Paperback Booksmith? I see the doorway and I think of Katie, our intrepid graphic designer who carefully puts together our promotional materials and almost all of the signs in the store.
I see our front tables and think of our buyers who select everything that resides on the table, and arrange them just so. I think of their spatial reasoning skills, of the amount of bookmarks that are printed and placed in books, of the time and effort it took to keep the table fresh and current.
Our staff recommendations (below) are a labor of love, handed in the day before they are due with enthusiasm and a dollop of lateness. When the new staff recs go up, there is always a week period where we debate each other’s recommendations and try to guess who recommended what, resulting in several booksellers picking up books we wouldn’t have thought to pick up.
The aisles, especially this one (below), have some of my best Booksmith memories. This aisle contains our fiction, graphic novel, YA, Sci-fi, mystery, and humor sections, containing a great cross-section of interests that manage to pull everyone from the store in. I’ve told people about upcoming events in this aisle, taken some hilarious photos (also below), and shelved a great deal of books in this aisle.
This is a sliver of my Booksmith experience. I think of the bookseller 10 or 20 years in the future that will be doing the same search for “Brookline Booksmith,” finding pictures of booksellers, displays, and events from 2013 that will make them stop and marvel over how much the bookstore has changed, but how the spirit is still the same.
Jamie Tan, Events Director, Brookline Booksmith
Posted: Apr 11, 2013
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