Tiny community bookstore in LA rewrites its grim future amid COVID-19

LOS ANGELES (Xinhua) – The Book Rack, a small, popular used bookstore in Arcadia, a city located 25km east of downtown Los Angeles, has turned to social media to seek to avert the writing on the wall as COVID-19 threatens to erase its future.

The Book Rack with its wide variety of interesting used books has been a community mainstay for 35 years, delighting generations of readers and serving as a welcoming venue for booklovers.

However, the ongoing pandemic has had a devastating toll on American businesses, especially small businesses like The Book Rack.

Owner of The Book Rack Karen Kropp said books can be a real comfort to people during difficult times and she had seen more embrace them.

“They give you something tangible to hold on to that can help you feel better,” Kropp told Xinhua last Saturday.

Kropp believed that books enable people to learn more about how the world really works and to travel all around the globe or into outer space without leaving their living rooms.

“I’m not a good one for leaving my armchair,” she said, “but I’ve still travelled all over the world through books.”

“I’ve loved reading ever since I was a child. It’s a big deal to be a reader and I wanted to pass that on,” said Kropp, who tries to inspire children to read by employing them part-time in her store.

Kropp’s love of reading and kindness towards children seems to be paying dividends, as almost USD6,000 have been raised for the store which was under threat of closure due to the pandemic.

When COVID-19 caused sales to plummet, Mina Kasama, a part-timer at the store, hit upon the idea of seeking community support through social media to help the store stay open, and established a crowdfunding page on Facebook for the store.

“The need for these funds is immediate to ensure that our small business can continue to weather the pandemic and remain open once it is over. All funds will go towards rent, utility bills, maintenance, and the day-to-day running of The Book Rack,” the 23-year-old local grad student, who has worked part-time at the bookstore since she was 15, wrote on her page.

“The Book Rack has also provided many local high school students with their first jobs, giving them valuable workplace experience for the future. The COVID-19 pandemic has made times hard for many small businesses, and The Book Rack is no different.

“We are reaching out to ensure that we can continue inspiring young readers and providing our customers with new and exciting reads for many years to come,” she added.

Kropp was astonished and grateful for the unexpected financial boost. “It’s amazing what Mina did. I could never have done that,” Kropp said.

Bookshops, especially those that sell used books, have been facing financial straits from a host of challenges, including the game-changing dominance over the entire book market of massive online-bookseller Amazon.com and other Internet booksellers.

Moreover, these establishments also had to weather a change in consumer habits which has seen younger generations turning to games, social media and online sites in their spare time instead of reading books.

Kropp wants to re-engage youngsters in the lost art and love of reading – something that is passing many mobile app-obsessed children by.

“Kids don’t really appreciate reading the way our generation did,” she said.

“They need to read more. Reading can have a great impact on a child’s mind and character, as they learn morals and ethics from the inspiring stories and heroic characters they read about,” she added.

“Books can teach people how to be a better person.”