Archive for May 17th, 2006

A bit of a rant

The comments on this post, on the Yarn Harlot blog, have me all kinds of fired up. Sadly, I must send all this fire out into blogland. For that, I will probably apologize later in the post. But not yet.

She (Stephanie) asked for some suggestions for bookstores, as she is going to BEA Here are some of the suggestions, and some rational (I hope) dispelling of the myths, at least as far as the mega chain Borders goes:

1. “They might try organizing the books in some fashion”

They do. I’ve worked at 2 Borders stores in 2 states, and have shopped plenty of others. There are sections for knitting, crocheting, quilting, beading, etc. They just don’t stay organized. At any store, of any size. There may be signs on the shelves, or dividers of some sort, but there is organization.

2. “Maybe weight towards including some older books with the newer books”

Not that this is a bad idea, it just won’t happen a lot. Bookstores are not libraries. They sell books, and what sells across the board are new books. Borders has dates on those price stickers on the back, and most stores will have employees pull older titles. As well, each month the stores get big lists of stuff to pull and send back to the publishers. Often, these are things that the stores will get refunds on, thus lowering the overall cost of books. If the store saves money on stuff they didn’t sell, they can buy stuff that will. If the store doesn’t pull those books? They catch all kind of trouble from Corporate.

Most stores (of any chain) will be happy to order older books for you. The big two (Borders and B&N) have access to used books, too, and will order them for you. I promise.

3. “It would help if they could read their reference books in print and actually find the book you want to order but can’t because employee apparently can’t read”

We’ll skip over that part for a second that chafes my butt and instead focus on the first part, “It would help if they could read their reference books in print.” This stuff is all on the computer now, either on CD or through Books in Print online. What that employee is doing that takes forever is trying to work with the keyword demon (mythical not program) that, when you type in exactly what the customer said returns no results. A slow, painful dance of trying to keep the customer from getting cranky while trying yourself not to get cranky with the computer ensues. And by the way, “It has a blue cover” doesn’t help much.

4. “How ’bout a sign offering friendly ordering of books a customer would be looking for?

Well, at Borders (dunno about B&N) there are signs everywhere, and not just at the desks. So many you’ll trip over ’em if you’re not careful. Its just that in retail (and libraries, btw) no one reads signs. I’m dead serious here. Ask, please.

5. How ’bout tracking those requests and noticing trends and then keeping the most requested (gasp) in stock!!!”

At my second Borders, which is one of the largest, more than 50% of stock is based on special order trends. If they are a lot of books on novelty yarns on the shelf, its time to beat up your fellow knitters. Seriously.

6. “And the organization thing. Why do they think we don’t understand the alphabet?”

See #1. Honest to the Gods Above, I would organize the sections daily, and by the end of the night they were trashed. Trashed in an “I’m going to cry right here and now” kind way, because all the work I had done just hours before was for nothing.

7. “Have the knitting section overlooking the children’s books with lots of plush adult-sized chairs”

My old Borders did this, and a LOT of sticky books were the result.

7.5 “Putting the knitting books on the shelves that divide the rest of the store from the children’s section (thus having the knitting books IN the children’s section) was also not a moment of great genius (another Borders accomplishment).”

See? What did I tell you?

8. “Tell publishers not to shrink wrap the books in plastic.”

I almost did the opposing views with this one, too, as aome people complain about the books being shelf worn while others hate the plastic. The solution is simple: at the big box stores (Borders and B&N) ask a bookseller if they will unwrap. 90% of the time they’ll unwrap it, or let you do it yourself. Its that easy.

9. “Also, it would be great to see more knitting magazines – there are a bunch out there!”

Amen, sister. This, again, is an issue for the corporate office. Your local branch of the store does not have control over what mags they carry. You want something else? Email a comment to the head honchos.

10. “Then once we get good books at the library we all need to do our part by checking them out so they remain in the collection.”

I want to end my rant on a good note. Here in the lovely state of Connecticut, there are a lot of libraries with a lot of good knitting books. All you need (if you’re a resident) is a card at your hometown library and you can 1) check out books at any CT library; just show up and hand them your card, 2) request from your library any book from any other CT library, just ask “Can I request _____ sent here?” and 3) grab your card, go online and do it yourself.. It will be sent to the library you like.

All businesses, whether for profit like a bookstore or non profit like a library, work from statistical reports. If it doesn’t sell at the store, its pulled to make room for something that does. Likewise, if something doesn’t circulate at the library, it may one day be weeded to make room for something else. Those that move a lot (whether sold or checked out) stay on the shelf. Its not pretty, but that’s how it works. The people you see on the front lines: the librarian, the bookseller, whomever, is not generally the person in power. If you have a complaint about selection, go to those in control and for the love of wool don’t yell at the poor sap barely making a living wage. Please, help the people who are making these books available to you. We’re trying to help you.


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Here it is, a gusset without holes:

Now, I can’t say how I did this. Mostly, I called upon the meager bits I remembered of what advice I had been given before. (I didn’t have custody of the computer at the time, which is why I was stuck with what a I could remember.)

Although I did have holes in the anklet I tried, I still wonder how much of last night’s success had to do with using worsted weight rather than a sock yarn. Is it so thick it hides it? I have the other bumblebee sock at mid-heel flap now; I suppose I’ll know today at lunch or tomorrow.

It is amazing to me how much faster socks go in worsted, though! Since my Dad wears boots for work and needs something more solid than regular socks, it only makes sense to use heavier yarn and bigger needles. The color may not be what he wants–I’m working from stash–but he’s 100% function over form. If I made him socks on size 1’s or 0’s, he’d only wear them for weddings and funerals. Not how I want my socks worn, I tell you. I just feel I am cheating for using such big needles (size 9).

Tonight, no working on socks! I just got a phone call from home that went something like this:

“Honey, do you know a ‘Jane’?”
“Jane?” I say, “that sounds familiar…”
“A Jane in England??”

Yikes! My Project Spectrum postcard swap partner has beaten me to it, and her letter has arrived! Don’tcha worry, Jane, I’m on it tonight.

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