Bookstore Tour: The Little Book House, Albany, NY
by Lyn Miller-Lachman
Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany is home to
The bench outside the Little
Book House Founder/Owner
Albany, New York — this small city in upstate New York and its surrounding area has been recognized as having a lot of readers. The city is the home to several colleges and universities and the weather is conducive to staying in by the fire, reading. And not by accident Albany is home to one of the best-known independent bookstores in the country.
Since Susan Novotny founded The Book House in Albany’s Stuyvesant Plaza in 1975 the store has grown to include the Little Book House for children’s books, an endeavor that promotes diversity in children’s books and great books.
Rachel King - holding
Rachel King is the current manager of the Little Book House. She was a customer of the Little Book House as a teenager and through her college years. After graduating, in 2000, from UAlbany, she got a job at the store and has been there ever since.
The Little Book House concentrates on children's books -- next door The Book House has the adult titles. There is of course overlap. When the book store held a book signing for Rogue in June 2013, Rachel and her staff assembled a display of X-Men-related titles to tie into the protagonist’s obsession with the mutant superheroes, and of Lego-related titles to tie into the author's obsession with the brick and the minifigure.
The store often has several displays on exhibit at any one time. The displays change frequently. In the past the Little Book House has mounted displays to accompany the Choose Kind campaign against bullying, centered around the best-selling middle grade title Wonder by R. J. Palacio; a display for Hispanic Heritage Month; a Halloween display, books focusing in on key moments of African-American history. The store features diverse books year-round and not just in the months set aside for Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and so on.
The Choose Kind
display in the
A white board and display highlight upcoming events.
Latino Heritage Month
Display of X-Men and Lego titles
The Little Book Store is committed to diversity and literacy. The staff wants customers of all backgrounds to feel welcome in the store, and to find books that appeal to their interests. The manager, Rachel, says, “If people come to the store and the books aren’t there, they won’t feel welcomed.” The store's dedication to literacy is full-fledged as well. In recent years, a local philanthropist has donated thousands of dollars to provide a diverse selection of books to children who would not have access to those books otherwise. The Little Book House selects the titles, matching them to readers according to their age, reading level, and interests. In addition, Rachel asks publishers’ sales representatives for extra ARCs to give away to families in need, and Book House founder, Susan Novotny donates gift certificates to charitable organizations so families can come to the store and select their own books.
There are the regular story times and author signings. Staff is available to help adults find just the right book for the child reader in their lives. The Little Book House has taken to social media with a blog, and other technology aids to promote events.
In the 13 years at the Little Book House, the manager, Rachel, still considers coming to work as “like a birthday every day.” She has seen customers grow from babies to teenagers and teenagers to adults. The city has become more diverse and the collection at the Little Book House has continued to provide a diversity of choices. The staff helps each client find "just the right book" and supports reading without censorship.
Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the former editor-in-chief of MultiCultural Review and the author of resources for educators and fiction for teens. She is the author of a young adult novel Gringolandia (Curbstone Press/Northwestern University Press, 2009) and Rogue (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013).
When she isn’t writing, Lyn is the co-host of a bilingual program of Latin American and Spanish music, poetry, and history on WRPI-FM and a part-time seventh grade teacher, and regularly reviews children’s and young adult books on social justice themes for ThePirate Tree.
For more information, visit Lyn’s website, www.lynmillerlachmann.com.