Sunday, March 22, 2020

Bookstores Are Essential

To slow the spread of coronavirus, New York is now on PAUSE, which includes the closure of all non-essential businesses. Essentials include grocery stores, liquor stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, and restaurants and bars that serve delivery and take-out only. Bookstores, however, are not, even though they also have the capacity to serve delivery and curbside pickup with social distancing.

Rebecca Fitting, co-owner of Brooklyn's Greenlight Bookstore, is leading the charge to get bookstores re-classified as essential and keep them open during PAUSE. She has sent a letter to Governor Cuomo, signed by several local bookstore owners, making the case for their necessity.

At Greenlight, orders packaged for pick-up at the door

"We are urgently asking that you recategorize bookstores across New York State as an essential service," the letter states. "In New York, both schools and libraries are closed and Amazon has announced they are de-prioritizing books and are no longer actively shipping them to consumers. This is alarming because at the moment, bookstores now serve as one of the last sources for New York’s students and families to access education materials. In addition, we also provide both children and adults with home education and entertainment materials which are a necessity during these long periods of social distancing and isolation."

As she notes, "New York bookstores already have safe distance protocols in place, many of which are offering curbside pickup or delivery, where there is no physical interaction with customers. Our products are sanitized and require no physical interaction when exchanged between employee and customer. In addition, having bookstores deemed essential services would allow us the ability to continue to receive and send shipments of books to our customers."

Finally, "Bookstores in New York are often family-owned businesses with close-knit teams. In all these cases, we would have a skeleton crew and practice the utmost due diligence of social distancing, hand washing, and sanitizing processes. This would allow us to continue to employ our staff and ensure the survival of our businesses too."

curbside pick-up at Three Lives & Co.

Yesterday I picked up books curbside at Three Lives & Co. in Greenwich Village. When I arrived, the doors were open and a table blocked the way, covered in packages of pre-ordered books for pickup. It was quick, easy, and everyone kept their distance. Today is their last day open and they are slammed with business--everyone is scrambling to get new books before shutting in.

*Update* The time for making bookstores essential has passed, but some store owners say that, after a period of PAUSE, it might be possible to return to a delivery-only system. Stay posted.

- Please continue to support your local bookstore through this time by purchasing gift cards for future use

- You can support the laid-off workers of McNally Jackson here

1 comment:

samadamsthedog said...

Essential is a crummy word. More people would probably argue that their corner bar is essential than would argue that their bookstore is essential. Maybe "essential for physical health" would have been a better way to put it.