The only thing it is okay to hoard is BOOKS! Just saying, if you want to do something really helpful and you have a fetish for paper products, try your local favourite bookshop and stock up on reading material for the plague apocalypse. I know the only thing I fear running out of is reading material and let’s face it if you really do run out of loo paper you can always start working your way through the least liked reads. The ultimate review right there.
I just want to highlight what this disaster is going to mean for some of our treasured small businesses. Good brick and mortar bookstores are community hubs, they are as much about the sense of community they create as about selling a product. I have a bit of insider information here and just wanted to share some of the information I have about my favourite bookstore. They have a diverse clientele but the clientele store staff are often most engaged with are older customers who sometimes come in more for a chat and a bit of social interaction as much as for an actual book. Bookshop staff are an important social connection for some lonely people. Those staff are casual, so if they don’t work they don’t get paid. The same is true of coffee shops and their staff, often they are servicing the same community need and sometimes the same customers. These staff are mostly casual and working for small business with very tight margins. The current situation is going to be crippling for these businesses, in fact I have heard lay offs have already started, no body wants to have to do this.
I know that the staff at my favourite bookshop are working out amongst themselves who most needs shifts and how to try and struggle on as best as possible, supporting each other. What is impressive is that I know they have also worked out ways to stay in touch with their regular customers. The store is also offering telephone ordering and home delivery of items and urging customers especially the older clientele to stay home. They care about their customers because they are more than customers, they are members of a caring community. It constantly surprises me how the staff know many of the older members of the community by name. There are not many places in which the older and younger members of the community can meet on neutral ground and discuss, among book chat, the latest English Premier League scores or even the movies they have all seen. Sometimes the similarities overcome differences.
One of the great benefits of reading is that it can make us more empathetic, it can help us to connect to those around us and it can take our minds off ourselves and the anxiety we might feel. If you want to get a sense of proportion back, maybe pick up a good book and just chill out a bit. Given that this crisis is going to continue for some length of time, now is a good time to touch base with your favourite bookshop, either go in and pick a book or ring up and get them to deliver. Don’t use amazon or book depository, if we don’t support out local bookshops they will not survive. Or worse window shop and then go home and buy the same titles from Amazon, after possibly risking spreading infection. Here in Australia business has been reeling from the effect of drought and fires, covid 19 is a new challenge which may destroy many small businesses. So while we still can, drop in and buy a book, a book for a friend or a stack of books to keep the kids entertained and while you are about it drop into a cafe and grab a coffee. Lets try and support our communities and not descend into barbarism fighting over toilet paper and hand sanitiser. Given that yesterday it was announced the council is closing public libraries and swimming pools as of Monday, your opportunity to get reading matter is going to be limited. Personally the only thing I fear is being stuck in quarantine without enough books, so yes I have been guilty of hoarding. I have been hoarding reading material just in case.