Wednesday, January 7, 2015

adventures in Brookings: the Brookings Book Company.

As you know, I fell in love with libraries at a young age. What could be better than free books?

Well, getting to keep the books.

In my young life, I managed to accumulate a pretty respectable library of my own. Between gifts, rummage sales, book fairs, and book orders, my bookshelf was never empty. However, the more you read, the more books you’ll find that you love. The Brookings Public Library and the Arlington school library opened up worlds of books for me, and those were the places where I discovered books I loved enough to want to add to my collection – books that I could read again and again.

Now, as I was rather young, my means of obtaining the books were limited. I had an allowance of three dollars a week, and that won’t get you much at Barnes and Noble. And when you’re ten, it’s not like you can just drive yourself to Sioux Falls for a trip to the bookstore. And Amazon? Not a thing.

Enter: the Brookings Book Company.
I first got to know the Brookings Book Company thanks to my great uncle Burt. Burt was an avid reader, and he was always trading in his old books for new ones. One day, he presented me with a certificate for store credit to a place called the Brookings Book Company. Burt had taken his old books there and was given store credit in return, which he then bestowed upon me. That certificate was like gold. I persuaded someone (probably either my mom or my grandmother) to take me to this mystical place where one could trade old books in for new (or new to me) books. I wish I could remember what I bought that first day, but I do remember how completely delighted I was do have discovered this new and wonderful place.

As I grew older, I went to the Brookings Book Company more and more. (Having a driver’s license really helped.) It was the perfect place to build my book collection or to pick up something new to read. I would come in with lists of books, carefully browsing the shelves for the elusive volume. Burt, who had more than enough books of his own, would always give me his certificates for store credit, which I would happily spend.

Eventually, I started earning store credit of my own. I cleaned house: boxing up old books and hauling them to be sorted at the Brookings Book Company. They did not issue cash for books: only store credit. I would come away with nearly as many books as I’d come in with – thanks to the Brookings Book Company, I acquired everything from classics to Calvin and Hobbes. For a time, they even sold old records – when I got a record player for Christmas, my first post-Christmas stop was the record room at the Brookings Book Company.

Believe it or not, I didn’t go to the Brookings Book Company for books alone. The Brookings Book Company was (and still is!) home to a friendly three-legged cat named Spencer. I would crouch on the floor, browsing the lowest shelves of the nonfiction, and Spencer would curl up beside me. Any book store that has a store cat is aces in my book.

When I went to college, my visits to the Brookings Book Company became few and far between. And I don’t know what college was like for you, but as an English major, I had too much required reading to even let the thought of reading for pleasure cross my mind. I figured that was something to do when I graduated.

Sure enough, after all my papers were written and my degree was in hand, I was loosed from the chains of required reading. However, since I spent the first nine months post-graduation as a nomadic unpaid intern, I didn’t have the money for books – not even used books. (And none of the libraries would give me a card without a permanent address. Sigh.)

Thankfully, with all that behind me, I can afford to buy books again. Since I work in a library and have access to many thousands of books, I only buy books that I truly love. Recently, I’ve been searching for the books I used to read as a kid – and what better place to pick those up than at used book stores?

One day, I brought James – who is NOT a reader – to the Brookings Book Company. He befriended Spencer while I perused the shelves, picking up a few choice books as I went. James was not particularly enamored with the store (after all, it was full of books)… until he stumbled across a box overflowing with trumpet music. Practically leaping with excitement, he asked the owner how much it would be for the whole box – and he happily paid the $20 asking price.

And now James, too, likes to stop at the Brookings Book Company. I’ve made a believer out of him.

So if you’re ever in Brookings and you’re looking for a cozy used book store, allow me to recommend the Brookings Book Company. The shelves are stuffed with books, and you’ll certainly find something to your liking. Say hi to Spencer for me.

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