Closing Borders

Katie reading her new "Wall-E" book in the parking lot of Borders in Snellville, March 2011

This past Tuesday evening, I swung by our local Borders bookstore in Snellville. The entire place was nearly empty of its books, movies, cd’s and magazines. A few stacks of books remained scattered throughout the store. After a half-hour of browsing through the dregs, I managed to find a gem, Bruce Feiler’s Generation Freedom: The Middle East Uprisings and the Remaking of the Modern World. The price: $2.55. It was a bittersweet moment when I made the purchase at the counter, my last one from the Borders bookstore chain of which I’ve been member since 2002.

Like the Barnes & Noble chain (which thankfully made better business decisions and kept up with changes in book-selling online) Borders were the centers of their community, drawing all types of people into its doors to browse wooden book-shelves, enjoy coffee and conversation in its comfortable cafe or open a world of imagination to young readers through its storytelling program.

I’m not an overt fanatic for certain business chains or products and could care less when corporations fold for one reason or another. But when it’s a bookstore (large or small) that’s shutting its doors, my heart breaks a little. The thought of there being one less place for people to gather to buy, read and discuss books with friends, family and strangers–one less place to build community by exploring new ideas and worlds–is disconcerting.

I realize that not all is loss with Borders disappearing. There are other bookstores going strong, libraries remaining viable and literary communities growing online that will make up for the chain’s absence. However, witnessing a bookstore closing is like watching a person or animal die. Its inevitable and unfortunate part of life but it’s not exactly relished with delight.

I have fond memories of my bookstore experiences as a kid and adult, and Borders is no exception. I remember how much fun it was to browse the store in Midtown with Elizabeth and other friends/classmates while studying at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur.  Elizabeth and I were stoked when we first learned that DVD’s during post-Christmas sales were buy 2 get one free. With our new Borders gift card (a present from E’s dad) we had quite a time grabbing up the first three Harry Potter films and other favorites.

And I will always cherish the times we took Katie to the Borders in Snellville, some of her first experiences in a bookstore. One late Saturday morning while Elizabeth ran an errand at the neighboring Target, 18-month-old Katie and I had a snack in the Borders cafe–coffee for me and chocolate milk for her and a blueberry muffin for each of us.  And afterwards, I let Katie run through the aisles to look at all the books. She beamed from ear to ear as she zoomed past one row after another of books made up of various shapes, colors and images. In the past year or so, it’s been a delight to pick out books for her from the children’s section or show her how to choose one for herself or play with the block toys the store had set up for toddlers.

When the store was starting its final sales about a month ago, Elizabeth, Katie and I went to find a few good deals. While Elizabeth looked around, Katie and I spent time in the children’s section playing with the Cars 2 books and more than a dozen Mater, Lightning McQueen and Finn McMissile plush toys. Katie must’ve used half an aisle to line up the cars which made me wonder if she was going to ask to buy the whole lot. When we were ready to go, she settled on a couple of books instead.

Thank you for the good times Borders. Your doors close but the stories you helped create will continue on.


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