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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Northport Loves Books

Virginia Johnson, my most recent TEA guest
[In which some old photographs appear....]

Summer of 2018 has seen two landmark literary anniversaries in the village of Northport: the 50th anniversary of the Leelanau Township Library on Nagonaba Street and the 25th anniversary of Dog Ears Books, born on Waukazoo Street and now back on Waukazoo again. A half-century and a quarter-century — noteworthy milestones in the life of our village, our township, and our county.

Volunteer-maintained library garden
Although the current Leelanau Township Library building opened to the public on May 20, 1968, Northport residents were investing in their library as early as 1856, when Rev. George Smith noted in his diary that books were to be purchased in Chicago for use by the “Town Library.”  Before moving to its present home in 1968, the library’s collection was housed at various times in an earlier Township Hall; in different homes and businesses; on the second floor of a local store; and in a house on Waukazoo Street.

Original Dog Ears Books
Dog Ears Books first appeared much later, opening for business on July 4, 1993 on Waukazoo Street in a little shed next door to the old Woody’s Settling Inn. (Who remembers?) Both shed and restaurant have since disappeared, replaced by Tucker’s, but after a stretch of several years in different buildings on Nagonaba Street, I am content to be back on Waukazoo Street, near the modest beginnings of my bookstore and next door to the studio and gallery of my husband, artist David Grath. 

Both library and bookstore have seen support for their endeavors increase over the years. The two book venues have loyal followers among summer residents, as well as the love of year-round residents.

One library fan, Pauline McClure, summed up her experiences as a former long-time volunteer at the Leelanau Township Library over the years by saying, “One of my greatest joys was patrons coming in and gushing over their favorite library or, at this time of year, returning from wherever and expressing how much they missed and loved this library, asking what would ‘we’ do without you, and so forth. The ‘we,’ of course, is a community of loyal patrons and visitors who realize what a treasured resource we enjoy in this small, award-winning library."

Appreciative library audience
A bookstore customer friend and Northport resident who also happens to be a nationally known writer, Sarah Shoemaker (author of Mr. Rochester, the biggest book launch I ever hosted), when asked about her favorite book find at Dog Ears Books, responded instead in general terms: “What I have found at Dog Ears is a warm welcome, an open mind and heart, good and wise advice on books and life in general. I love the author visits, the chance to sit and listen to an author read, and to ask questions and buy the books and get them signed. I love that there are so many books at Dog Ears that have a local connection.” The bookstore has a wide-ranging collection, in terms of both content and price, but naturally focuses as much as possible on Michigan history and fiction. When book-lovers like Sarah take the time to peruse and appreciate my collection, I am richly rewarded.

The late Mac Thomas launches his life story at Dog Ears Books
In the course of its history, the Leelanau Township Library has invited a wide array of guest authors for its Summer Writers Series in July and its Poetry Month events in April. Dog Ears Books has brought many writers to Northport over the years, as well, and has hosted its own author events. In fact, library and bookstore guests have overlapped more than once. One such was the late Al Bona, a good friend and a marvelous local poet. Here he is reading at the library:

Al Bona at library poetry evening
And so, while the general public may see libraries and bookstores as competitors, librarians and booksellers don’t see their work in that light. Our aims are complementary, and we often work together. Librarian Nellie Danke agrees with me. "We share many of the same goals and both want to promote reading, writing and learning,” says Danke. “The community really benefits from having more than one resource.”

(As a side note, I'll add that bookstore owners in various Leelanau County villages have generally regarded one another as colleagues, rather than as competitors. We call each other to inquire about things our customers have that we don't have in stock often send each other customers on general principle. That collegiality is a wonderful aspect for me of bookselling here Up North.)

The Leelanau Township Library has been presenting its  annual Summer Writers Series on Tuesday evenings this summer, and Dog Ears Books (as readers of this blog are already well aware) has been hosting a summer-long literary season called  "Thursday Evening Authors," TEA for short, to celebrate our quarter-century mark. See my sidebar for remaining events and visit the library website for theirs.

Under a beach umbrella, in a gently swinging hammock, or in front of a cozy fire while a blizzard rages outdoors, we in Northport count books -- and writers -- as valued neighbors. Northport loves books, and the Leelanau Township Library and Dog Ears Books are happy to welcome locals and visitors alike to indulge that love. As you can see from this sampling of images, we are making literary memories to last a lifetime.

Many writer friends pictured here
Postscript: The story of my bookstore would not be complete without mention of my loyal volunteer of many years, Bruce Bales. Without Bruce, I would never have had a day off in the summer! Bruce, Dog Ears Books salutes you and thanks you!

My volunteer "contingent," Bruce Bales
And I should not omit mention of Sarah, since so many bookstore visitors adore our darling doggie. Here she is a few years younger, charming summer visitors. And for those who were concerned, I'll tell you that she came through her surgery on Thursday with flying colors. The girl is good! Thanks to everyone who's been asking!

Sarah and friends

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