Yesterday (October 9th) was my one year anniversary of having my first job—a bookshop keeper. A.K.A the best job EVER. Last year I blogged about how I got the job, if you’re feeling like nosy little dragons. But today I’ve got something extra special planned.
In celebration of my anniversary and upon the suggestion of the brilliant Deborah (thank you, Deborah!), I am going to share what it’s like to work in a secondhand bookshop. I shall give you a tour of the adorable place, take you through some of my bookshop duties, and give few little bookshop-life snippets. It’s gonna be fun!
NOTE: This post is picture OVERLOAD. So be warned! Also, the shop is kinda cramped and the lighting yellow-y and laughs at my attempts of taking nice pictures. So I can’t promise any quality photos. Sowwy!
The bookshop is owned by a retired husband and wife, who are pretty much the best bosses ever. I have a lot of health problems that they’re always understanding over. If I have to take off from work, it’s usually no big deal, even though I’m the only employee. They make the job relaxing and enjoyable. And I love how they have everything setup. It’s all just really great!
So come on in!
Excuse the weird block in the middle. Covering our sign for privacy reasons.
When you step through the door you’ll enter our widest room, the nonfiction room. Where we keep…nonfiction books! *le gasp* Shocking, I know!
There’s the door, but really when you walk in you’ll see this view from the doorway…
We’ve got all the books sectioned off for easy access. Like one wall is for biographies, another for travel. One corner has all our nonfiction Christian books. Etc., etc.
Just to the left of the door we have our wall of “we don’t know where else to shelve it” books. (Fancy name, I know.)
Usually we put books there that are waaay too big to fit on our wee shelves, or just don’t fit anywhere genre-wise. Lots of coffee table books and whatnot. Audio books go there as well.
Alrighty, moving on! When you go out of the nonfiction room, you’ll find yourself in a long hallway that leads everywhere else.
You can see the nonfiction room to the left there, and that’s the counter to the right.
Behind the counter! This is where I do most of my stuff (unless I’m shelving books, obviously). I like to stay behind here when customers are around because I don’t want to bug them while they’re trying to peacefully shop for books. And they’ll know where to find me if they have a question. Then, of course, I need to be there for when they’re ready to buy their books.
We’ve got everything we need back there. There’s a mini fridge, a COFFEE POT (total requirement, obviously), and even a microwave. So I can bring whatever for lunch. There’s also a radio, which I’m SO grateful for. I can’t stand silence. Gotta have some background sound going of some kind.
The whole shop feels like home to me, but behind the counter feels like my room. It’s the safe haven. I don’t even know, guys, I’m so weird!
My perch. I spend much, much time in that chair. Sometimes spinning in circles. *grins* Juuust kidding. I try to behave myself.
My view from behind the counter. A nice view of the door so I can greet customers when they walk in.
But sheesh, you’re not here to talk about radios and spinny chairs. You want to see BOOKS.
Just as you walk into the hallway from the entrance room, you’ll be facing the counter, as you can see. The hallway runs long to your left, but if you turn to the right, there’s a single room, and one of my favorites.
Okay, this is one of my favorite rooms AND least favorite. Because I couldn’t care less about the other genres in there. Practically half the room is full of westerns which is like my least favorite genre ever. *shudders* Sorry, just not my thing. Also tons of paranormal romance in there. Blech. BUT FANTASY, PEOPLE. And, thankfully, we have it all sectioned off. The back wall is the westerns, the far right the paranormal, the far left fantasy, etc.
As you can see, that shelf stands in the middle of the room. It’s where I find most of the fantasy books I want. It holds the bigger sized books and hardbacks. The wall shelves are much shorter so can only hold the small paperbacks.
Hellooo, paperback fantasy wall.
The other side of the room.
Back to the hallway now and onto the other rooms!
If you walk past the counter and nonfiction room, you’ll see all the other rooms. To the left we have the romance room.
Meh. Romance. I really don’t care about those.
To the right, across from the romance room, is our mysteries/general fiction paperbacks.
Then a little bit farther down, and on the left is the mysteries/general fiction hardback room.
The shelves in there are taller to accommodate the larger books. We alphabetize everything by author, and the W through Z books had to be moved to that shelf on the wall in the hallway because we ran out of space in the actual room. Lol! SO MANY BOOKS. It gets very cramped. We wish we had more space, but we love the location and building (despite its size), so we just make-do with what we got.
Across from that, is a little nook where you’ll find the classics, Christian fiction, and large prints.
I’m pretty sure this used to be a closet, the poor little room. But I love that tiny nook. The back wall is our Christian fiction. To the right is classics, and the left are any large prints that come in.
The hardback romances sit in the room at the very end of the hall.
But psssh. Who cares about all this romance and general adult fiction nonsense? Now that we’re at the end of the hall, to the right there is my most FAVORITE room…
The children’s and YA room!!! I mean, yes, the fantasy room is my favorite, too. But a lot of that is adult fantasy. BO-RING. YA is where it’s at! This room is also bigger and sunnier than the others. And carpeted. It’s so cozy and happy.
Isn’t it cute? This far left side is mostly MG books, and in the baskets we have board books and things like that.
A nice bench under the window. And then to the right there is my favorite shelf in the whole shop.
The YA shelf! (Are you even surprised?) The majority of the books I buy from the shop come from that shelf. I spend an embarrassing amount of time in this room. It’s my happy place. ^_^
SO. If we go through the door you see there, we’ll be back in the hallway.
Opposite end of the hall this time.
Annnd…that’s all our rooms. It’s fun having a room for each genre. All our customers usually have their specific room or section they go to. Sometimes when someone comes in, I like to mentally guess which section they’ll go into. I’ve gotten pretty good at deciphering the romance lovers from the westerners to the mystery fans, etc. Hey, I’m a writer. I read people, I can’t help it!
But sheesh, Christine, do you actually DO things at work besides wander the rooms petting the book spines? YES I DO. Well, okay, I do spend a lot of time petting book spines, it’s true. And I like to roam around admiring all the books. (Because, hello? BOOKS.) But I do have specific duties!
Opening the shop is one of my favorite things. Sometimes when I get there one of my bosses are there, but a lot of times it’s just me. There’s something so satisfying about going in and turning on all the lights and flipping the sign to open.
The way the shop gets books is through a trading system. People bring us books, and with each book they bring, they get a discount on the books they buy. So, basically, you bring one book, and the next book you buy is half price. Bring 10 books and the next 10 books you buy are half price. And so on and so forth. All the books we have were brought in by customers. Some people will bring in 5 or so. Others will bring in boxes of them. Sometimes a person will bring us 100 or more books! It’s kinda crazy, but just part of the job. And, of course, customers don’t have to bring in books to buy books. They’re just cheaper if they do.
So, when a customer comes in, if they’ve brought us books, I count the books and then add them to the customer’s credits, which we keep in a nice little credit file.
I ask for the customer’s name, pull out their card, and add however many books they brought to their credits. Then, I deduct however many books they buy from the credits. Easy peasy. Some people will have like ten credits or so, others have brought in so many books their credits are in the hundreds. We even have a few who have over a thousand. Hey, we bookworms don’t mess around! (Though I honestly can’t imagine giving away books…)
I do the normal customer service type stuff, like help a person find a certain book or author, show any people who’ve never been inside around, the norm. Though, honestly, most of our customers are repeats and have the place as memorized as we do. It’s so fun having so many “regulars”. Makes the place feel homey somehow. And that probably doesn’t even make sense…
ANYWAYS. If people have brought books, we like to wipe them down and keep everything clean. We also don’t take books that are too beat up. Nobody wants to buy a book that has the cover completely torn off or something. But a lot of books that come in have been in storage or something and can be pretty dusty. When that’s the case, we wipe them down with disinfectant wipes. Not gonna lie, I’ve found some pretty nasty looking stuff encrusted on the cover of books.
As I said earlier, I try to not get in the way of customers while they’re shopping, but once no one is around, I get to do my favorite thing. SHELVING.
First, I like to put the books in stacks by genre. Then I carry them to their designated sections and put them away. BUT, if there’s a boat-load of books to shelve, I pull out my bestie. The handy dandy cart.
I love this thing! I feel so official pushing around my cart full of books. (I have no idea why.)
Again, I keep genres separate since the books go in their separate sections. So like here, I have the cart filled with paperback mysteries/general fictions, and alphabetized by author. And then off to shelving I go!
We keep the rooms alphabetized by author, so it’s easy to find the book you’re looking for. And easy to know where to shelve each one.
Our little alphabet markers.
Since we’re so cramped, we never put duplicates on a shelf. As I’m shelving, I first see if there’s one of the same book already on the shelf.
No, I will not pretend I don’t see her. Because I do see you, duplicate!
If there is a duplicate, we just use a stepladder to stick it on the top of the shelf.
The cart and stepladder. My two buddies.
To the top the duplicate goes.
I’m one of those weirdos who actually likes heights, and I love getting on the top of the stepladder. Even though it’s, ya know, not that tall… It’s still fun being up there and looking down upon all the bookshelves. I NEVER CLAIMED TO BE NORMAL OKAY?
Selfie from atop the stepladder.
No Christine was harmed in the making of this photo.
Dealing with customers and shelving books is the main job. But there are other little odd jobs to do here and there. Such as if a shelf is looking empty, we peruse all those books at the top to see if there are any books that aren’t duplicates anymore to put on the shelf. Sometimes I’ll sweep, vacuum, take out the trash, dust. General housekeeping.
When children’s books come through, we look up their AR levels and put them on the spines for the school kids.
With romances, we put colored stickers on the historical ones so you can easily spot a historical romance from a contemporary one. A lot of people prefer one over the other, so that helps them find what they want.
And I even have to… *gulp* answer the phone.
*cue dramatic music*
Now, anyone who knows me knows I hate the phone. Not only do I hate it, I’M TERRIFIED OF IT. Talking to people face-to-face? No problem! I love it actually! People are awesome. But there’s something about trying to have a conversation through a speaker that makes me want to go hide under my bed for 57 years or so. I’m not wild about drive-throughs at restaurants for the same reason. The phone is definitely my least favorite aspect of the job. BUT. I am getting better at it and don’t have a mini heart attack every time the phone rings now. Progress! So…yay life experiences…?
Overall, the job is a breeze. Some days can be a little busy, but, honestly, it’s usually just a person coming in here and there. My bosses are sometimes there, more often during the beginning of the work day and before closing. But the majority of the time I have the shop to myself. Sometimes hours will pass with no one coming in, and no books to shelve or anything, and I’m free to do whatever I want. (Such as take a billion pictures of the shop for a blog post. *cough, cough*) Often, I’ll pull out my phone and read blog posts or catch up on Instagram or something. Other times, I’ll turn the radio off and just read. Let me tell you, there is nothing cozier than reading in an empty bookshop while it’s raining. I LOVE when it rains while I’m working. ALL THE COZY. Annnd yeah, I will just wander around petting book spines and admiring all the many, many books.
I’ve never experienced the amount of creativity that I do than while I’m at work, too! I think it’s something about being surrounded by and working with hundreds of books. You just soak up the creativity. I always get the greatest urge to WRITE while at work. You know, the one time I can’t really write. Obviously. But I just get so inspired while there. I will often make story notes on my phone because ALL THE IDEAS. Bookshops are magical. They just are!
When noon rolls around, I eat lunch. Sometimes I pack it, or if one of my family members are out and about they’ll bring me something. Then a bit later, if things are quiet, I’ll have my favorite time: COFFEE TIME.
Coffee + Christine = TRUE LOVE
I like to make extra coffee in case a customer wants some. The smell of coffee and books is the greatest fragrance on planet Earth. And drinking coffee in a bookstore? THE. BEST.
Another amazing aspect of the job is getting first look at whatever books come through. If there’s one I want, I can buy it right away. Bwahaha! And, as an employee, I get the discount without having to bring in books which equals A VERY HAPPY CHRISTINE. Though, sadly, we really don’t get a ton of the types of books I like. The main thing that comes in is the general mysteries, romances, and westerns. It’s actually very rare YA books, or even any fantasy stuff, comes through. Most of our customers are older. Really, for the entire year I’ve worked there, I’ve only seen like…5 people my age. Not even kidding. It’s sad. And I sometimes have a hard time, because our customers will ask me what’s good to read or if I have any recommendations and I’m just like, “Er…I’ve never actually read these types of books…” Awkwaaaard. I mean, the majority of what I read is YA Christian fantasy, and some independently published, so obviously I’m not going to find those in a secondhand bookstore. BUT. The good news is, I do have a job now, which means I sometimes have money, which means I can order books I want waaay more often than back in my jobless days. Because, like, what else would I use my money for? Something practical like food? Psssh.
But I love all our customers. We get some great characters in there, and lots of nice people to talk to, even if I’m useless recommending books to them.
By the end of the work day, I just turn out the lights and lock up. A lot of times my bosses are there so we close up together. Nothing special has to be done before closing. It’s all so casual.
Our little customer recommended books shelf in the hall.
Flowers by the window in the nonfiction room.
Putting alphabet stickers to read out “biography” here was one of my very first jobs to do, actually!
If we end up with any beat up books, we’ll put them in this little rack and sale them for 50 cents.
Can I offer you a mint?
You gotta love the kiddie chairs.
Kiddie books. <3
My bosses’ daughter painted this years ago. Isn’t it cute?? My bosses are super artistic themselves. They’re such a talented family.
You can’t have a bookshop without a couple of bookworms. Though bookdragons would be better.
This bookshop is really just my second home. Honestly, it’s kind of a de-stresser. As I said, it can be really quiet, and I have nothing to do but sit around and read or wander the shop or just sit and drink coffee. But I also love the work itself. Handling and organizing books is my favorite thing EVER. And I get paid to do it. I can’t thank God enough for giving me this job. It’s one of the greatest blessings I’ve ever received.
I only work part-time—every Friday and every other Saturday. Though since I’m the only employee I will occasionally work an extra day if my bosses need to go out of town or have something going on, but usually it’s just the one to two days a week. Which is perfect. With health problems, I couldn’t hold down a full-time job, especially if it was demanding and stressful. And, being truthful here, I wouldn’t want it. What I really want is to be a writer. Which takes TIME. If I was working all day every day, I couldn’t pour myself into my writing and building a platform and pursuing publishing like I can now. I so, so, sooo admire those who can work or go to school or take care of kids or all of the above AND write. I don’t know how you people do it! But for me, I’m just not good at taking on too much (not to mention don’t really have the health for it). With this job, I work during the weekend, and then have all the rest of the week to pursue my writing career dreams. It gives me something to do and a little money (for buying books with, of course *cough, cough*), without invading my entire life. There couldn’t be a more perfect job for me. God is SO good!
But good gracious. I’ve probably broken everyone’s computers with picture-overload here, and bored you guys to death with waaay too many details. This may be my longest, most photo-infested post ever. o.o If you’re still around, then I applaud you! Sorry, I just really love this little bookshop. I had so much fun sharing it with all you dear book-loving buddies of mine, and I wanted it to feel like you were at work with me for a day. It’s also special having my first job logged like this. So thank you for putting up with me and all my pics and rambling!
Here, have a book and a mint on your way out. *winks*
SPEAK WITH ME BOOKDRAGONS. What do you
think of my beloved little bookshop? (Have I burned your eyes
out with my way too many pics? *cough*) Have you ever worked at a
bookstore? And, because I NEED to know, am I alone
in this hatred of phones??? Come, let us discuss
the love of books and trials of adulting!