Just the other evening, I was walking up Broadway near Lincoln Center, and I passed by the recently closed Barnes and Noble (just around 67-69th Streets). I'd been to this same store only a few months back, I think in mid-November, to buy a CD (yes!--I still buy CDs in this iPod Age!!) of Brahms' Requiem. I first went up to one of the top floors to get a light dinner, nothing fancy. And then wandered around the massive book shop. I don't know how many floors there were, but I do remember that I just kept going up and up and up on the escalators! When I got to the music section, and found what I was looking for, I remember going up to a counter, and asked the man if I could check out. He was snippy with me and said, "Can't you read the sign!??" Of course, the sign was poorly placed and very near to the ceiling, far above my head. "Oh, okay, I'm sorry," I said. He gave me a sour look and shook his head. The sign above us read "Information."
It turns out that the store was already on its way out, and the staff must have known that it was closing and that they may have been bracing against lost jobs. Who knows where these folks went, if they were relocated to other branches, or simply let go. Some have suggested that this unfriendly behavior was a direct result of impending job elimination. I'd like to think not, but we have no way of knowing.
The sign above reads, at the beginning, "Yes, it was just a store. But for us, the people who filled this store, it has been our honor and pleasure to serve this community for the past fifteen years." Other signs were put up, which read "No this was not JUST a store." The sentiment throughout the community seems to be somewhat uniform. People don't like losing bookstores, because they create a sort of community within a community, a shared space and place. (Barnes and Noble had to close this location due to much too expensive rent increases). Imagine if everything went digital and there was no more need to meet in shared spaces and have interactive human contact around communal texts? Perhaps we're going in that direction. But for now, let's think about how we can begin anew with creating shared space and developing communities of learning and sharing. And let's hope that "rent" isn't the downfall of books...or community.