Independent local bookstore linked to collections and the community

As Independent Bookstore Day on April 30 approaches, the stalwart of Albuquerque Page 1 Books hopes to bring in like-minded lexophiles for a celebration of small business and good reading.

As the store is still practicing masking requirements, it will commemorate Independent Bookstore Day with a COVID-safe celebration. Store manager Ian Carrilllo said Independent Bookstore Day is a welcome way for community members to show their support for those stores that help the community thrive.

“It’s a reminder that we exist and that independent bookstores are a vital part of the community,” Carrillo said.

The business was founded in 1981 and moved to its current location in 2013, but still retains its status as “Albuquerque’s staple,” according to Carrillo. The store has been owned by the same man, Steve Stout, since its initial inception, and Stout continues to work in the store almost every day.

“He’s probably one of my favorite bosses I’ve ever had. He’s always around, so if you think of anything you want to ask him, you can just say, ‘Hey Steve, what’s that? what do you think?” manager Brandy Kirkpatrick said.

The store is perhaps most notable for its extensive special collections section, with more than 2,600 rare book titles, according to Carrillo. Some of these titles date back to the 18th century, although all are of potential interest to a wide variety of specialist collectors.

Kirkpatrick said his current favorite in Special Collections right now is a series of prints from a personal art collection that was published in 1926, bound in an oversized red hardcover. Only 100 copies of the book currently exist.

“There is always something new; there is always something different to learn. It never gets old, especially with these old books,” Kirkpatrick said.

Besides rare books, however, both Kirkpatrick and Carrillo pointed to the store’s manga, graphic novel, and tabletop role-playing game collections as popular sections of the store. The store is quite extensive in the selections it offers and the staff have equally varied interests.

“We have a lot of new employees. Everyone here is just very eager, avid readers, and really eager to talk about the books that interest them. I mean, if you need a recommendation on anything, you can get it from anybody here,” Carrillo said.

Kirkpatrick and Carrillo were both hired right after the COVID-19 pandemic hit in tandem with the store’s inventory system crashing. They recall having to remodel the store and its organizational system from scratch alongside a relatively fresh staff, as many former employees left in the wake of the crash and the pandemic.

“We have old and new employees, and seeing them working together has made the store something really special,” Carrillo said.

The pandemic has certainly put a damper on business in some respects. Carrillo recalled that the store was struggling to establish its online presence when the store closed at the same time Barack Obama’s highly anticipated memoir “A Promised Land” was released.

“We’re so excited to be open and people seeing the books and touching the books themselves — that’s what makes the business work,” Carrillo said.

Now that local bookstores are more accessible than they have been in years, Carrillo hopes more people will take the opportunity to walk into a local bookstore and gain whole new insights in the process.

“If you set foot in a bookstore, you’ll learn something whether you buy a book or not, and if you talk to someone in a bookstore, you’ll learn something valuable,” Carrillo said.

Zara Roy is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @zarazzledazzle