Monday, October 15, 2018

TTT: Best Loved Libraries and Bookstores

With the delightful bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish moving on to other things, TTT is now hosted by just one of their contingent, That Artsy Reader Girl .  If you want to quadruple the size of your TBR AND find a bunch of great book blogs to follow head on over and check it out!

The topic this week is: bookstores and libraries you've always wanted to visit.

But I'm pretty content with the ones I've already been to. I guess I'd like to see the lions outside the New York Public Library, but that's about it. 

Here then, are ten libraries and bookstores that have been important in my life. Since I've written more than once about the glories of my current home library, I'm not including it here, but rest assured, it is my all time favorite. 

1. The Capitol Hill branch of the Multnomah County Library system was my first library. I've written about it extensively before. I definitely trace my love of libraries back to this branch.

2. Similarly, Annie Bloom's Books was "my" first bookstore. I could walk there too, although it was a longer trek, and often my friend and I would ride our bikes. It used to be located across the street from where it is now, a fact I cling to as proof of how long I've been a customer. My parents were acquainted with one of the owners (the Bloom part), and in high school I swam with the sons of the other owner (the Annie part). They have a store cat, a black one, and it seems to me they always have, which must mean they purposefully replace each cat with another mellow panther. It's *cough* not the cheapest store around, but they have a wonderful selection. My tattered, beloved copy of The River Why came from Annie Bloom's.

3. Riga's English Language Library was one of the many bonuses of living in the capital city for a year with my husband, after spending nearly five years in rural Latvia in my twenties, long before reading online was an option. I can't find mention of it online anymore, but I could walk you there right now. It had limited hours and limited selection, and my library card was handwritten. It was made up of donations, I'm sure. I got the biography of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' lead singer there, and The Dogs of Riga, which was a trip, given that I was living in the neighborhood Wallender visits. I also borrowed The Grapes of Wrath from this library, for which I will always be grateful. While I'm talking about Latvia, I have to give a shout-out to the wide windowsill in my Peace Corps apartment, where I housed my bilingual dictionaries and the handful of books I'd brought with me or borrowed from friends.

4. I worked in interlibrary loans all four year I was in college. Middlebury College's library is called the Starr Library, which I always thought was a lovely name, even if it's just named for a donor. This was still in the era of card catalogues and metal stacks, though we used computers to track down and request books our patrons were looking for. My bosses, two women slightly older than my parents, were lovely and provided several of us with moral support and a place to get occasional home cooked meals.  I researched papers in the study carrolls (but had to go over to the computer lab to actually write them) and tracked down fiction from time to time--Atwood, Tolkien, and le Guin.  

5. After college, I spent some six months as a page for the Beaverton City Library, which was then housed in a former supermarket. It was a really pleasant job--fun coworkers, lots of books. I first heard the term "cyberpunk" while I was working there, and I learned about Sherman Alexie when a coworker and I saw Smoke Signals. I remember being amused by the whole hiring process--there was an alphabetizing test in which I had to organize a cart of books, and during the first week on the job I was loaned a car so I could go get my drug test done. I'm not sure how they would have handled having loaned me a car if I'd failed it, but it was probably pretty clear how unlikely that was.  

6. The Lion and the Crab was the name of a bookstore in the beach town we spent a lot of time in when I was growing up. I always remember the name because it was based on the owner's astrological signs, and my birthday lies at the cusp of Cancer and Leo. I usually just window shopped, but I do remember my big sister buying me a few books there for my eighth birthday--I want to say Understood Betsy and The Good Master.


7. Powell's City of Books is the main branch of Powell's, and still the best of all. I have spent hours and hours wandering the many diverse rooms before repairing to the coffee shop to make my choices. I've taken students there and watched their jaws drop, and I've taken foreign guests there and seen their awe. I feel like it's more expensive that it used to be, but honestly, that may just be because I'm more likely to be looking for current books, not focusing on finding those used books at amazing prices. I used to love their travel branch, housed under the stairs in Pioneer Courthouse Square, where you could get bilingual dictionaries, travel guides, and things like plug converters or luggage tags. But nowadays I'm more than happy with their suburban branch, a mere four miles from my house, with its spectacular YA section and frequent author guests.

8. The library at my elementary school was impressive to me not so much because of the books--the public library had a better selection--but for its design. There was a sort of terraced sunken living room area where we'd gather for the librarian to read to us, and there was a loft full of beanbags and pillows where we could read after checking out books. Lucky kids.

9. I'm all about supporting local, independent booksellers, but I have never turned up my nose at a big chain either. There was a Border's Books located just about halfway between the town where I first taught and the suburb where my sisters lived, and we used to meet there for coffee and a good browse. After I got married and also moved to that suburb, I would meet my friends from the town I worked in and we'd grade papers there. I also have to admit that I like my local Barnes and Noble, which is probably close enough to walk to were I less lazy. 

10. In fifth grade, I was in this class that gathered on Wednesdays, and several times we went downtown to the Multnomah County Main Library and did research. At the time, that meant learning how to use a card catalogue and how to request items from the stacks (although fiction was housed on the accessible shelves). It's a grand old building, and we loved both the old fashioned elevator and the wide, curving marble stairs. I haven't been in it for years, but I still feel a rush of affection every time I see it. 

BONUS: I really love my classroom library. I am super proud of it and how much I've done to make it responsive to my students' interest and reflective of who they are.  I spend way too much of my own money on it, which is a whole 'nother issue, but I'm willing and able to do so for now. 

CAVEAT: I know I am immensely privileged and fortunate to have always been surrounded by so many excellent bookstores and libraries, and that these are resources many don't have access to. Kate of A Backwards Bookshelf has an excellent post about this issue. I'm a big fan of First Books, which provides low-income schools deeply discounted a highly relevant materials, but even the many great programs that exist in the US to address "book deserts" do little to address this on a global scale.


  1. The PNW has awesome bookstores and libraries. I still miss them even though there are some nice ones over here too.

  2. Your classroom library is too cute! We are indeed lucky to have been surrounded by so many great libraries and bookstores. Definitely a wonderful thing.

    Here is our Top Ten Tuesday. Thank you!

  3. Wow, you’ve been in so many cool bookish places! I’ve always lived in rural places that didn’t have bookstores or big libraries. I had a small school library and a small public library. That’s where I got all my books.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  4. Nice post for this week's topic.

    Here's a link to my TTT post for this week:

  5. Such great memories accompanying these bookstores and libraries. I would love to visit Powell's. I have a feeling I'd also be in awe.

  6. These all sound amazing! I really wish we had more amazing bookstores and libraries here. For some reason, all of ours are awful. :/

  7. What a cool little retrospective of your life in books here. I love it!

  8. What nice bookstore/library memories! I really loved Powell's books when I got to visit... I spent the entire day there, and I still have some books I got there.

  9. I love the sound of your elementary school library- I think a well designed or just imaginative or appealing library can really help make reading a haven for kids. The Lion and the Crab sounds neat too- love the story behind the name. :)

  10. I am so envious of this list! They really do all sound wonderful!


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