When it comes to retail business, few companies find themselves involved in social and political issues like bookstores. The latest issue has been a response to North Carolina’s HB2 known as the NC “bathroom bill”. North Carolina has not protected workers who are LGBT and has language in HB2 that clarifies that the state does not intend to create a new class of protections based on sexual identity … and will not allow its cities and counties to create such a protected class.

We Are Not ThisAuthors have cancelled book tour stops in North Carolina and booksellers around the state have banned together to proclaim “we believe it is essential to be non-discriminatory, inclusive and tolerant, to promote freedom of speech and equality, and to guard against censorship and unfair treatment.”

Many of the beloved picture books we carry encourage respecting differences, actually embracing them. Our world becomes bigger and more compassionate when we don’t judge, bully, and isolate others.

The North Carolina booksellers are standing strong in their statement to their elected officials. They have a lot to lose in terms of their financial sustainability and ability to continue to provide safe spaces where people can gather and discuss issues, grow into their higher selves, and contribute to the evolution of humanity.

Bookstores are symbols of civility, education, lifelong learning, connection, and conversation. We celebrate the freedom to read, diversity and inclusivity.

Today, we in the book industry are shocked and saddened to see our colleagues in North Carolina battling for human rights in 2016 … in the United States of America. We can learn from the civil rights movement and all of those children’s books too. We stand with the North Carolina booksellers and believe we are better than this.

Author Mary Oliver is quoted, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” We read this quote at the close of the full-week workshop retreat.

30418757.thmAll decisions of importance really come down to this, don’t they? We have this one life. What will make us happy, feeling fulfilled, believing at the end that we’ve contributed in some way and enjoyed our time on earth.

Everyone who joins us for retail management training has this in come … the love of reading, appreciation for ideas, and a desire for meaningful work. Ninety-nine percent do not have a bookselling background. Most people who join the book business don’t have retail background either and some have limited business experience. It begins with the passion and can develop from there.

Entrepreneurship requires that we honor the deep longing, learn from those who are successful, develop our own vision, and deliver it all with passion and connection.

It’s a big, broad universe with the richness of cultures, ideas, opinions, and discoveries. In a bookstore, that’s the energy you feel by coming in, looking around, browsing and finding books to take home, and attending a presentation. It’s a fascinating world!

The opportunities to open a bookstore that is sustainable requires going beyond “selling books” to creating a place for those who love reading and love learning.

Let’s think of the bookstore as a fun, comfortable, friendly atmosphere for those who embrace life and want to keep learning throughout life… those lovers of travel and other cultures, creative and beautiful use of language, good food, loving relationships, healthy minds and bodies, lessons from history. Where can you find all of those things? In a bookstore.

Lifelong learners will come into the bookstore more often when we offer opportunities to connect and learn from others.

Lifelong learners will come into the bookstore more often when we offer opportunities to connect and learn from others.

In the selection we create, but also in the programs that bring people together to learn and grow, the possibilities are endless. Non-profit organizations, educational institutions, medical facilities, health and wellness centers all employ people who know and can share so much. Individuals who are crazy about a hobby, those history buffs, someone who has fallen in love with learning about the night sky … all can be wonderful non-author presenters who bring people into the store based on the desire to learn something new.

This quote from Einstein, featured in “The Age of Outrospection” in today’s issue of DailyGood in the graphic to the right, reminds us that there’s so much to learn in this vast world.

“A human being is part of the whole called by us ‘Universe’ — a part limited in time and space. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creates and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Programs in bookstores can be … and should be … so much more than an author reading. Think of all of the things your customers are interested in and find reasons for them to gather in the bookstore to connect on a common interest or concern.

Helping make meaningful connections is one of the most important opportunities for any bookseller and is often the difference between the bookstores that struggle trying to sell books and those who thrive because they have created … and become a community treasure for being … ann important center of the community. A bricks-and-mortar bookstore is the perfectly friendly, accessible place for every person at any age to widen our circle, learn new things, and feel part of an amazing universe.