If you have watched any of my Youtube Videos, you've heard me sing to the rooftops about independent and small bookstores. Not only do I love a good deal on a used book, but I love what they represent in the community.
I have been volunteering at Open Books in the Chicago West Loop for about six months when the city hit a level of low Covid-19 cases making it safe for the store to accept volunteers again.
I've been an obsessive fan of Open Books since last May. I was suddenly without a job. I started to stress buy a lot of books and loved the idea that I could purchase used books in great condition and also know that my purchases were being reinvested into the community. I would walk the 1.5 miles each way just to come into the lobby and pick up my book (at the time in-store shopping was not a viable option). It was a great way to get exercise and also really ask myself I wanted a book (aka, "IS that book worth walking 3 miles?").
The last few months have been especially hard on me. Between losing my father to cancer, issues with our home buying, and a venue running away with our wedding money, I was in need of a place that would give me solace. For the first few weeks of the year I found it really hard to leave the house. It was hard to keep up any of my commitments. I understand that is part of the grieving process. But volunteering at Open Books for 2 hours a weekend was a level of social interaction I could handle. The minimum requirement to volunteer is four hours a month.
My preferable shift is 10am - 12pm on Saturday mornings. The store is quiet and brings in, in my opinion, the best kind of bookstore fans. There's a fun sense of kindship watching other people scoop up books by the armful. It's even more fun to listen to people who enter the store for the first time, amazed, at how many donated books have been packed into this store.
Did I forget to mention that? You can donate your books (in good condition) to the store. Even I have donated books that I've read. I think I've donated thirty so far. Let's not compare how many I've bought so far, that number is a bit higher 🤣.
My volunteer shifts are rather methodical. I'm usually someone who will volunteer to shelve new books around the store. I've learned the layout of the store and how to organize my piles and then it's just about walking around and putting them away. It's absolute heaven. I get some activity, some steps, and also get to see first hand what new books have come into the store. I sometimes even grab books I see that I know won't stay on the shelves long like FEASTING WILD. There are other times I even go back to shelves to check on books that interest me but I did not by. It's all a balancing act for my poor wallet.
All kinds of books come through Open Books. I've seen a lot of books from Book of Month come through or other book subscription boxes. We're talking about brand new hard cover books that are sold at half the price. Could you imagine? Let's buy a hardcover for maybe 15 dollars AND your money is helping a non-profit that creates literacy programs? What's not to love about this scenario?
You don't need to have a reason to volunteer. This is not a resume builder. This is not to get some kind of discount or kick-back. I just do this for me. It's two hours a week, on average, I get out of the house and I'm surrounded by something I love, which are lovely lovely books.
Open Books offers free shipping for purchases $20 and over anywhere in the United States. They update their online directory daily. You can take a look here: