From Andy: A Moving Target
If you’ve been watching the news (and who hasn’t?) lately, you will know that the rapidly spreading coronavirus has created fear and in some cases, panic, in California. The governor has told us not to congregate in numbers larger than fifty. It is not yet a law, but he strongly suggests it, and of course, on medical grounds he is right.
The short-term economic impact of such an action will surely be devastating for Sonoma--bad for large corporations, but even worse for the rest of us, mom-and-pop operations just loping along, even in the best of times.
Readers’ Books takes the health and safety of our customers very seriously, and we will never compromise on that issue. We also feel a deep responsibility to our staff and to all you book-lovers out there who would be bereft if deprived of the wealth of new books coming on the market. To further compound the situation, Sonoma public libraries have announced that they will be closed until the end of March at least.
So what to do? Some of my friends in the book business have decided to close their doors until the craziness passes. The virus will abate eventually. Warmer weather is ahead, and that’s a good thing. But you can’t put an exact date on when or how severe our local experience will be. It seems to be related to population density, and it also seems that social isolation, or just staying at home, will be a big part in winning this coming battle.
For the time being, we’ve decided to keep our doors open. We will be curtailing most author events, we will also be closing an hour earlier than usual, at six. Our reasoning is that this is a small town (low density), we think (hope) we fulfill a vital need in this community, and it is very rare (nowadays especially) that we find anything even approaching a crowd in our store. The truth is that book browsing is a largely solitary occupation. People come in one at a time and mull over this or that table, make their purchase and leave, sometimes without ever saying a word. It’s rather monastic, in fact.
We can understand why you might want to hold off on consumerism for now, but we urge you to consider the long term effect. We are doing everything we can to keep the wheels greased, but we need you to step up as well. And it’s not just Readers’ Books I’m talking about, it’s all the small, local stores you love to patronize. If you want this garden to be around in the days and weeks to come, it’s the same story--you just have to water it. Even if you don’t have an immediate book need, here’s one easy idea you might take to heart--how about calling up and buying a gift certificate to put toward future purchases? We’ll happily mail it out or hold it for you and you’ll have some of your Christmas or Hanukkah taken care of! Christmas in March! What a concept.
As I said, we are monitoring this thing on a daily basis and will let you know. We want to stay in business, yes, but we also want what’s best for all of us. Meantime, wash thy hands.