Thursday, May 24, 2007

Great Booksellers

In a comment on an earlier post, Brian Mandabach mentioned the famous Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver, Colorado. Tattered Cover is a truly great bookstore, and this is in no small part because Joyce Meskis, its owner, is one of the most inspiring and courageous people in the world of books. She is a bookseller who has actually faced down federal agents and won. I had a chance to hear her speak when she gave a keynote address at the Denver Publishing Institute in 2002, and I left with goosebumps. She can really cut right to the bone when she talks about the importance of an open and unencumbered marketplace of ideas and of the right to shop in that marketplace without fear that someone is watching over your shoulder. I particularly love the letter to her customers that's one display in the store:

To Our Customers, A Statement and a Promise:

Within the Tattered Cover there resides a vast array of books containing ideas as diverse as the world in which we live. We sincerely believe that censorship in any form, whether by individuals, special interest groups, or by government is seriously damaging to every citizen of this country. We believe that it is in the best interests of our democratic society that ideas of all kinds be allowed to flow freely to the individuals who seek them, regardless of what our own tastes might be.

While we recognize that every individual makes personal choices about what's good or bad, right or wrong, valuable or worthless, we feel it is not our right to make those choices for you regarding your reading material or the authors who sign copies of their books at the store.

In fact, we maintain that it is our responsibility as booksellers to actively resist censorship that limits your right as our customers to make those choices for yourselves.

Can I get an amen and a hallelujah on the last paragraph?

And here's a good article on Meskis's various great works.


heidi said...

someone stopped my blog to let me know about this post--very cool!

Terie Garrison said...

I loved the Tattered Cover bookshop when I visited many many moons ago. I bought books, of course, but also a mug, which I still often use for my morning tea. :-)