Books beyond buildings: Support your local bookstore and library!

For book lovers everywhere — and particularly parents across the country trying to homeschool their children right now — the services of libraries and bookstores are essential. But this pandemic has left these institutions extremely vulnerable, and they need our support now more than ever.

Back in February, when we were working on our May/June Horn Book Magazine Special Issue “Breaking the Rules,” Horn Book Editor in Chief Roger Sutton put out a call to librarians and booksellers for examples of “DIY book cataloging, classification, and shelving — cases in which they broke their own rules of what-goes-where in order to give a book a better chance of meeting its readers.” The two of us also visited Boston-area bookstores and libraries (before the COVID-19 crisis) to check out ways they go beyond standard picture book, fiction, nonfiction, and Dewey guidelines to organize their books with their customers’ or patrons’ needs in mind. When we explained the issue’s theme, the booksellers and librarians we talked to were quick to let us know that they didn’t think any of their shelving or display ideas were breaking the rules — they were just doing their job to get books in the hands of readers.

The more we thought about it — and looked back on our own time as booksellers — the more we realized that of course they’re right! Librarians and booksellers are always developing creative ways to highlight books that they think are particularly special, that fit themes they know their communities’ kids love, or that might otherwise get lost on the shelves. And beyond the knowledgeable, personal book-selecting service they offer, bookstores and libraries are also vital spaces for community events and engagement, such as Frugal Bookstore’s A Family Affair Book Club.

The photo slideshow below from our February field trip highlights representative examples of how booksellers and librarians go the extra mile to help books find the right readers. We hope they will inspire you to support these institutions during this tough time as they strive to continue serving their communities when their physical doors cannot open.

See below for a list (created with the help of Horn Book intern Mikayla Lawrence) of organizations accepting donations so these places can reopen once allowed, as well as a small sampling of amazing resources that libraries and bookstores are offering their patrons right now. If you have other donation suggestions or resources to share, please add them in the comments below. Remember, we’re all in this together: books need readers, readers need bookstores and libraries, and now, bookstores and libraries need us.


How You Can Help


  • BINC (Book Industry Charitable Foundation): Since 1996, this nonprofit foundation has supported booksellers and shop owners in need. During the COVID-19 crisis, they also established campaigns to raise money for bookstores (#SaveIndieBookstores) and comic book retailers (#Creators4Comics).
  • R. Michelson Galleries is excited to announce that "Rule Breaker," a signed and numbered limited edition (ed. 100) pigment print, by Jarrett Krosoczka is now available at R. Michelson Galleries. Featured on the cover of the May/June edition of the Horn Book Magazine, the image celebrates artists who "break the rules." Through the month of May, this piece will be available at a special pre-publication price of $150, unframed (June 1st price increases to $250). A portion of the proceeds will support the Bookseller Industry Charitable Foundation. Please inquire here.
  • When you buy books online through this site, the full profit will go to independent bookstores (either one of your choosing, or to an earnings pool that will be distributed among indies).
  • A Month for the Books: A month-long virtual “festival” of author/reading events celebrating black women authors, where customers pay what they can and all proceeds go to an independent (black-owned) bookstore of the featured artist’s choosing.
  • Save Your Bookstore: An app that helps you locate your local indie bookstores and informs you about how to support them (whether the store ships, if they offer gift cards, etc.). Read more about the app here.
  • They sell audiobooks and split the profits with an independent bookstore of the customer’s choice.
  • We Love Bookstores: A continuing online author series to raise money to support San Francisco Bay Area bookstores.
  • More Than Words: A Greater Boston nonprofit bookstore working with vulnerable young adults is asking for donations of new or used books.
  • Care packages from individual bookstores






Our thanks to the following people, bookstores, and libraries for allowing us to share these photos:


Books, Bricks, and Mortar: What We Miss

Shoshana Flax and Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is managing editor of The Horn Book, Inc. Shoshana Flax is associate editor of The Horn Book, Inc.

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