100 Scope Notes
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The 50/50 Challenge: Support Indie Booksellers

Spurred on by John Schumacher (of Watch. Connect. Read. fame) and his relationship with Anderson’s Bookshop and author/illustrator Matthew Cordell’s recent call to reawaken your love for the picture book, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I support independent bookstores. As a school librarian working at four elementary schools, I’m in the position to decide where some legitimate book dollars are spent. I’m guessing many of you reading this are in a similar purchasing boat.

So why don’t we make a statement?

I have a simple plan I’m adopting, effective now, that I hope you too will consider. I’m committing to using at least half of my yearly budget to purchase books at my local independent bookstores (namely Pooh’s Corner and Schuler Books).

The question is – are you with me?

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. I am SO with you! Yay for you and yay for John for supporting indies!

  2. These stores provide a 20% discount to teachers, bring in authors, really know their books . . . ordering online you may receive the discount but not much else. Purchase locally! Thanks for promoting this!

  3. Sounds cool, but…I just can’t justify spending so much more of my budget – I do buy pretty exclusively from a fairly local vendor, BWI, though. Plus, there are no independent book stores in my area (well, except for one in Lake Geneva, but that’s mainly for summer people wanting beach reads as far as I can tell – I can’t imagine getting a large volume of books from them and they don’t have much kids’ stuff)

    What kind of book budget do you all have? I just got an increase for 2012 – I now have 14,000 to buy children’s and young adult fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, board books, reference/nonfiction sets, etc. for the year. I used to have about 800 a month. We have a city pop. of 10,000 and a service pop. of about 25,000 b/c of the outlying townships we serve. Our library is supposed to have about 72,000 items total, but we have finally been allowed to weed so that number has dropped rapidly.

    • You bring up a lot of excellent points, Jennifer. While I do have a couple indies in my neck of the woods, there are plenty of local booksellers that take online orders as well.

    • Jennifer, our library is very similar in population to yours (maybe a few thousand more in the actual city limits, but the same-ish overall). Last year I had $14,100 in my book budget for everything from board books through young adult, and this year we have been lucky enough to be able to increase it to $16,000.

      Reference materials come out of a separate budget, but we do not buy many reference books for the children’s department, mostly just the encyclopedia.

      My library is also very fortunate in that we have within our service area a small book distributor, so I consider that buying locally as well. The majority of our books come through them, but we will go pick a few things up at one of the local stores particularly to spend any leftover money at the end of the fiscal year.

      And Schuler’s rocks. I need to get back to Pooh’s next time we are in GR.

  4. Thanks so much for all you do! I’d just like to underscore the importance of indie booksellers in championing books by authors of color and those with diversity-inclusive protagonists and heroes. Such titles are often a great fit for school communities/curriculum but are much tougher to publish without both school/library and bookstore support.

    • I agree – the ability for bookstores to highlight what’s good is such a benefit. I always make discoveries when I visit a bookstore that I never would have seen otherwise.

  5. I’m not in charge of any collection development except my own, but I will pledge to spend at least half of my own book money at independent stores. I think our house already does this because my husband orders me autographed books from and indie in Virginia as birthday and Christmas gifts.

  6. I am so with you, Mr. Jonker! :)

  7. Seriously, you guys are both super cool. Thanks for doing this!

  8. That’s awesome, Travis! Very good of you and John both. Indie Love!

  9. Interesting – I was just curious, btw, as to what other people had. I think I’d like to try this if I had a local bookseller, but I don’t think I could justify doing it online, when my vendor offers a 40% discount. BWI is actually fairly local anyways – their headquarters is about 45 minutes away from us – so that’s as local as I’ll probably get. I’ve heard there used to be a children’s/independent bookstore in town, but it died long before I came here.

  10. I like to read my books on my iPad. Is there a way I can purchase ebooks through my local bookstore? I’m very much in favor buying locally?

  11. Way to go, Travis! I moved away from a city with a couple excellent independent bookstores a bit ago and miss them. I did not appreciated those bookstores fully until I moved away. The local B&N doesn’t offer the same extensive and interesting selection of children’s books.

  12. I am SO happy to see this challenge, Travis. You rock! As a sales rep who’s livelihood depends upon the existence and success on independent bookstores, I applaud your efforts. I encourage anyone, but especially teachers, to reach out to an #Indie bookstore and create a relationship with them. Let them know who you are. They have resources that can help you, ARCs, posters, classroom discussion guides and the like, and you can help them with book reviews, shelf talkers, author event attendance, volunteering for story times, etc., all of which is typically free. The benefit is mutual. The beauty of a local business is that these are your neighbors who are keeping local dollars in local communities. They reflect the viability of books in their community only by the support they receive. The relationship you foster with them is limited only by your imagination (and theirs). Check with Alyson Beecher, an elementary school principal in Los Angeles (@alybee930 on Twitter). She has done some amazing things. Buying books an an independent bookstore is the best way to insure that the health of the publishing/bookselling world is sustained all the way up the chain. Thank you for all you do, Travis and everyone else out there, to raise the awareness of the importance of supporting, when you can, local independendently owned bookstores.