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(St. Thomas, VI -- February 21, 2012) -- On Friday, March 2, 2012, The Friends of the St. Thomas Public Libraries (FOSTPL) will commemorate "Read Across America Day" at the Dockside Bookshop at Havensight Mall on St. Thomas, from 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm with readings from the works of Dr. Seuss, whose birthday is honored on that date. Read Across America Day was instituted by the National Education Association (NEA) in 1998, as an annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls for children to celebrate reading on March 2nd, the birthdate of beloved children's author Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. [Download the flyer]
During the event, the public is invited to enjoy Dr. Seuss readings (including "The Lorax", coming to movie theaters in March 2012) and meet the staff of the Dockside Bookshop. In fact, FOSTPL urges the community to take advantage of the offerings found at local book stores. In addition to our libraries, where many great works are discovered, book stores provide the opportunity to have and hold a beloved biography, novel or instructional manual. As more and more adults seek to increase their skills and knowledge, local book stores are the perfect partners to school, university and public libraries.
During challenging economic times, the public votes with its dollars and time, for independent book sellers, according The American Booksellers Association (ABA) at www.bookweb.org . A December ABA press release states, "Independent bookstores are showing continued resilience this holiday season, as reported online and in-store sales are well up year-over-year… Member in-store book sales as tracked by Nielsen Bookscan for Thanksgiving week--which includes Black Friday and culminated in Small Business Saturday--increased 15.5% over the same week in 2010. Online sales in ABA member websites during that week increased 60% over a year ago."
Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, added, “An array of factors are fueling the resurgence of independent bookstores, including the growing acceptance of the ‘local first’ movement; an extraordinary level of innovative and creative entrepreneurship; a willingness to adapt to changing retail trends including selling both print and digital books online; and, most importantly, continuing to be an unmatched source of credible information about books and authors."
The ABA membership includes two book sellers in the United States Virgin Islands, Dockside Bookshop on St. Thomas, and Undercover Books & Gifts on St. Croix.
On St. Thomas, Dockside Bookshop is owned by Jonathan Gjessing, and the store has been in existence since 1978. Throughout the day, local residents, children, seniors and visitors stroll the aisles in search of good reads, including local authors, instructional, children's books, biographies and self-help. Books not yet available or not on the shelf may be special ordered. "All the years we have been here, we have never charged more than list price (even though we pay shipping and clearing costs)... that is never passed on to the customer," says longtime employee Nancy Lee. "Even after the hurricanes like Hugo and Marilyn ... that says a lot about Jon (Gjessing, owner). We have always sold and continue to sell the books at their list price."
With so many changes in the economy, Dockside Bookshop's popular "Coupon Days" (registered customers receive a $5.00 off coupon for every $100.00 spent) had to be discontinued; while some customers are not too happy, many do understand. "Our main business is with local residents. Cruise ship passengers and crew visit, but local support has always been the key to Dockside Bookshop's continued existence. "We truly appreciate every customer walking in because nowadays a lot is available online," says Lee. "Lately so many from the ships are charmed that there is a local book shop, independently owned. These are very rare. The other day we had customer come in from Puerto Rico to visit, and they were so happy to find the book store, because they had seen many 'indie' (independent) bookstores go out of business, and now that the "big box" book seller in their neighborhood has closed down, they could not find a place to buy books where they live."
Always on the lookout for Caribbean literature, Dockside Bookshop features a large West Indian section including Virgin Islands authors, both fiction and non-fiction. The store has also begun carrying instructional posters and workbooks to satisfy teachers and students, as well as bible covers from customer suggestions. "Oh, yes, any ideas or suggestions, just tell us," says Nancy. "We listen to our customers!"
Advance orders are a specialty - if it's not on the shelf, Dockside Bookshop will place the order at no extra charge, and call when the book arrives. Multiple book orders may require a deposit, and out-of-print searches are available for books no longer available through conventional means. Out of print books are paid in advance, as they are generally used and cannot be returned. For those who would like to give a book but are not sure whether the recipient has or has read the book, gift certificates of any denomination are available.
As with many independent book stores, staff members tend to stay on long enough to develop a deep knowledge and are very helpful to customers. Nancy says of her colleagues, "I have been here over 20 years. There is not a lot of turnover. We are like a family. Althelia has been here 23 years. Genio over 10 yrs, Elizabeth over 10 yrs," she smiles. "They can really help you, no matter what you are looking for."
Dockside Bookshop is located in Havensite Mall and is open Mondays through Fridays 8:00am - 6:00pm, Saturdays 9:00am - 5:00pm, and Sundays 11:00am - 3:00pm. Follow them at www.docksidebooks.com, and on Facebook.
On St. Croix, Undercover Books has been in business for almost 12 years. Owner Kathy Bennett is enthused with what the future holds for her many customers, which includes children, adults, visitors, "snowbirds" and retires - a truly diverse crowd. A children's book reading session is hosted on Saturdays at 11am by librarian Merritt Crowder, whose animated renditions enchant the children. The store also hosts a book club, which meets every 6 weeks at the store. While there are over 100 people on the book club list, many simply like to be a part of it to keep up with hot book picks, while meetings have seen as many as 24 come in to discuss to books being read. "It's really a fun way for people to get together," Bennett says.
Undercover Books maintains a web site which lists upcoming events (right column calendar) and provides current information on best-sellers as well as ebook downloads for those using ereaders (powered by Google ebooks). One may also sign up to be on the newsletter mailing list which now numbers 1,000+.
"Having a community book store is an essential part of any community. It's very important for people to realize how crucial it is to support local bookstores - they are more than just retail stores, they are meeting places for people to share, and I am pleased to say I feel like Undercover Books is that kind of book store. And for the children of the community, if you can get them interested in reading and make it hip, it's something a book store can do. There's so much great children's lit out there right now. One of the most gratifying parts of the job is getting a child hooked on reading - it can really transform their lives," Bennett offered. Undercover Books is located in Gallow's Bay and is open Mondays through Saturdays 10:00 am - 6:00 pm, and Sundays from 1:00 am - 3:00 pm. Follow them at www.undercoverbooksvi.com, on Facebook and Twitter.
The Friends of the St. Thomas Public Libraries urge the community to continue to support local, independent book sellers - they are an important link to knowledge of all kinds, for all ages!