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What It’s REALLY Like to Work at a Bookstore

working at a bookstore

As you may or may not know, I work at my local Barnes and Noble in Austin!

It’s been my dream job since I was a little kid to work in a bookstore, so getting this job was incredibly exciting for me.

However, I had a lot of preconceived notions of what it would be like to work at a bookstore. Today, I’m going to share some of them with you all, and the TRUTH of what it’s like.

Please note, this is my experience, and my opinions do not in any way mirror that of my employers. As well, bookstore working environments may vary from store to store!


First off, this was not my first job. I’d worked at my local YMCA (and I didn’t enjoy it because of my coworkers) so I was excited about having a more conventional job. However, I had no idea what a conventional job was like. I’d never worked retail before, and I had no idea if I’d be any good at it. Upon starting at Barnes and Noble, I learned a couple of big lessons.

Lessons I Learned

1. The majority of your coworkers will be older than you if you are a teenager. I am the youngest person employed at my store. 

This was by far the biggest shocker for me. I went from working with people all under the age of 25 to working with either college students (or recent college grads) or people over the age of forty-five. I was used to talking to teenagers about teenager-y things and had to adjust really fast. Now, I kind of love it! I’ve never felt like my coworkers looked down on me, either. They have all been incredibly kind about bringing me into their conversations, and a couple of them have taken to acting like my mother sometimes.

It’s a bit adorable, actually.

Basically I LOVE MY COWORKERS.

2. I recommend being comfortable talking about Star Wars and/or Harry Potter. Like 75% of the people I work with have seen both of these, and a good portion of my coworkers are MASSIVE Star Wars nerds. 

Before I started work I’d never seen Star Wars before. On my first day, I shadowed a massive Star Wars nerd.

I watched Star Wars the following week. Suddenly, I got all the references, could connect to three-quarters of my coworkers, and could fangirl with all of them. To this day, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! It’s way better to ask a question BEFORE you do something, rather than do it wrong and have you boss explain it to you when you’re incredibly embarrassed.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! It’s way better to ask a question BEFORE you do something, rather than do it wrong and have you boss explain it to you when you’re incredibly embarrassed. 

I’m a MASSIVE believer in this and am even known for it among my coworkers. I continually asked questions during my first couple weeks to make sure I was doing things right. In a bookstore like B&N it’s incredibly important because we have to do things in a certain way because of our overhead company (returns, packing boxes, shipping books, etc.) Also, you get to know people by asking people. And you know how to do everything.

4. Get comfortable with having unusual eating hours. I’ve had a lunch break at 2:30 multiple times. It sucks, but it happens.

This was the biggest adjustment for me! I used to be a strictly noon lunch eater, but now I eat at all hours. And let me tell you – having a cafe in your place of work is a lifesaver.

5. BUY COMFORTABLE SHOES BUY COMFORTABLE SHOES BUY COMFORTABLE SHOES

Doc Martens are my #1 BFF.

6. Don’t be mean to patrons. Just don’t. They will annoy you, but don’t do it.

People ask me all the time if customers annoy me, or if they make me angry at the world.

Occasionally, they do. Especially if they leave MASSIVE stacks of books in the Newsstand *shakes fist* or leave their children unattended at the Lego table. But for the most part, I love helping customers. I love finding their book and seeing their faces light up, or recommending a book to someone. I love going on the hunt for something and finding it (books go missing in bookstores!!!!! constantly!!!!!). I love putting a book in someone’s hand.

I JUST LOVE IT.

7. You don’t get to read while you’re working.

🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

8. The highlight of your job at Barnes & Noble will be the discount and the ability to rent a book out.

I don’t know if the renting thing is just at my store, but I LOVE IT. I can rent any hardcover from the store for free and just bring it back when I’m done.

Also 30% any book and 50% in the cafe = the reason I’m consistently broke.

Tips To Make Booksellers Love You

1. Bring books you don’t want to them.

We spend much of our day cleaning up after people. Finding your eleven book stack right before close makes us want to strangle you. <3

2. Know the book title and author before you come into the store. Please.

As much as we love that you want the book, asking for the “book that was on NPR this morning” is not helpful. Also super obscure topics = I want to stab my eyes out. I know at B&N, our systems don’t search subjects very well, so we have to find a book to find a sub-section most of the time.

3. If you can’t find something on the shelves THAT DOES NOT MEAN WE DO NOT HAVE IT. 

I promise you. We have SO MANY books on display at B&N that are only on display and not in the stacks. Also, anything that has come out recently (or in the past three weeks) is in the “new” part of whatever section you’re in. Or, just ask us. We know if we have stock of something and where it is. We will find it.

4. Just because the website says “in stock” that doesn’t mean we have it.

The Barnes & Noble website includes any books on hold for people in a store’s stock. Also, just because it’s on our website doesn’t mean a store has something. Give us a call and we’ll let you know AND put it on hold if we have it.

5. Barnes & Noble retail stores do not sell textbooks. I repeat, we don’t sell textbooks.

College students, we love you, but please, for the love of god, don’t ask us for your textbook. Sincerely, B&N employees who get asked if we have _____ textbook 50 times a day at the beginning of classes.

6. Be nice. 

It’s very simple and makes our days so much brighter. Please don’t yell at us. We can only do so much. <3

7. When you give a gift, get a gift receipt. 

I swear, your niece may not want that game you’re buying her. Get the gift receipt.


I hope I wasn’t too preachy, but I really wanted to share these things with you all! I adore my job and all of my coworkers, and couldn’t imagine a better place to work. If you have the opportunity to work at a bookstore and think you’d be well-suited, DO IT. I love it.

Also, feel free to ask me any questions you have in comments or on Twitter! I’d love to answer.

 

 

November Wrap-Up

november wrapup

On the last day of every month, I’ll be doing a wrap-up with my favorite books, music, and posts from that month. 

This month, I was thankful for my family, friends, and opportunities, and got some reading in!

Check out last month’s wrap-up: August (I’ve been bad about doing wrapups)

books

18798983Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin | Goodreads | Review

I love Ryan Graudin, historical fiction, and reading about World War II, so this was basically a guaranteed love.

19542841Paperweight by Meg Haston | Goodreads | Review coming soon!

I read this for the Lit Up Review Spotlight Book Club, and was pleasantly surprised. It’s an important story about family, recovery, and finding yourself.

23015948Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone| Goodreads | Review

An incredible story that tells the story of a girl living with Purely-Obsessional OCD and her discovery of poetry. It’s a magical book that is stunning and beautifully done.

23492282Truthwitch by Susan Dennard | Goodreads

YEEEEEE! I got Truthwitch from the amazing people over at Macmillan, and it’s freaking amazing, guys. YOU HAVE TO GET THIS WHEN IT COMES OUT.

23149128 (1)The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen by Katherine Howe | Goodreads | Review

Howe’s book Conversion continues to be my go-to recommendation for older teens and adults, and so I knew I had to get my hands on The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen! Howe doesn’t disappoint with this stunning new title that is literally every genre in one.

music

“Our Own House” by Misterwives

“Dancing on Glass” by St. Lucia

“Better” by BANKS

“Gone” by Jr. Jr.

“Garden Grays” Wildcat! Wildcat!

posts

I didn’t have many discussion posts this month – pretty much just reviews! One I did have was a post on my new habit of waking up at 6 in the morning, which has completely changed my life. A post I’m particularly proud of is a reflection on what my life would be like without blogging, which absolutely frightens me. Lastly, I interviewed Ann Jacobus, the author of Romancing the Dark in the City of Light.


Have a great December – I know I’m going to be taking advantage of my holiday break to read and work a ton!

 

Who Am I Without Blogging?

let's chat

“Let’s Chat” is my Discussion series on Willa’s Ramblings, where I talk about things on all topics – life, books, music, and pretty music anything under the sun! Please let me know in comments or on Twitter what you think and let’s chat!

Today on “Let’s Chat”: Who Am I Without Blogging?

The other day I was reading one of my best friends Jen’s blog, J(en)’adore and ran across this post on how college has changed her reading habits. The last one is that she doesn’t feel like blogging, which really resonated with me – all bloggers have been there. Once I started to think about my own times of hiatus I started to wonder what had made me want to continue blogging?

Then I realized I was scared.

I was really, really freaking scared of not blogging.

And then I thought, why am I scared of not blogging?

And I realized that I don’t know who I am without blogging.

Blogging has been a part of my daily life since I was eleven. I’m seventeen now. That’s six years of my life, dominated by a hobby that has become my passion and has led me to my future career. It’s something that I see as a part of who I am and defines me as me in my own eyes. So, that begs the question – who am I without it?

There have been so many times where I’ve considered quitting, and I always say my friends pull me back in, which is completely true, but I also think my own fear of stopping keeps me going. I love blogging so much that I fear that without it I won’t have anything that makes me me anymore.

I’m really nervous about my future, too. College, specifically. What happens to my blog in college? Will I still read? Will I still want to blog? Will it fall to the wayside? I’ve always dreamed of being a college blogger, but what if I’m not college blogger material?

There are so many questions coming at me about the coming year, and one of those is my own: what is the future of Willa’s Ramblings? It’s been with me through so much of my life, with the same name and the same general focus. It’s kept me driven and motivated and forced me to go outside my comfort zone. It’s given me skills like nothing else could, and has taught me about the true meaning of the word community. I feel like I’d be letting myself down if I quit blogging – like all of this work had been for nothing.

And that’s probably all a bunch of crap, but it’s still something I wonder about. It’s one of those thoughts I prefer not to think about because it freaks me out, but here I am, talking about it. And publishing it.

So let me know in comments about your own fears. Bloggers, do you fear the same thing? Do you have the same questions? Let me know!

How Waking Up at 6AM Changed My Life

For a long time, I slept on a steady schedule of eleven or midnight until eight in the morning. School started at nine, so it was constantly a rush to get to school. Then, at the end of last year, I decided to start waking up at six in the morning, just to see what happened.

Instead of going to bed closer to midnight, I go to bed around ten. I get a full eight hours of sleep, and spend an hour each morning either working on homework, reading, checking the news, replying to emails – whatever I have to do. I spend a calm hour in my pajamas each morning before everyone else is up, starting my day with productivity.

What ended up happening is that I went to school feeling prepared. Rather than being a mess every time I got to school, scattered and anxious, when I’d had an hour in the morning to study for that morning’s history quiz, I felt far more prepared. This year, in the flood of college apps, I’ve spent that hour in the morning rereading my essays, finishing my resume, and finalizing my list of activities. Sometimes, when I don’t have much to do, I wake up and read.

Waking up at 6AM has redefined the way I spend my time and the way I approach my day. I’m more awake, well-rested, and sleep better at night.

I know this was a short post, but I wanted to share some thoughts with you all! Let me know if this has given you any goals to wake up at 6AM and what you think.

Willa’s Ramblings is taking a hiatus!

haitus image

Due to the amount of college applications and scholarships I have due in the beginning of November, I’ll be going on a short hiatus until November 8th!

Until then, read old posts, find some new blogs, and read read read! I’ll still be over on Twitter though, so keep me posted on your current reads over there too.

Love you guys and thank you for your continued support. <3