Walking down Dickson Street, the main street in Fayetteville lined with bars and cafes, I stopped outside a bookstore. From the outside it didn't look like much, a few books on a table for the bargain price of a dollar and a couple of news paper vending machines containing local papers and job guides. The sign on the window said “Used & Out of Print”. I have always been fond of books and prefer to read on paper. I don't know if it’s the tactile feel of a book in my hand, feeling the texture of the paper with each page turn or the scent of the ink that forms each word. With a quick look through the window, I saw that they had the category of Roman Classics so I decided to head inside. When I entered, I discovered much more than what I was expecting. Inside, was a veritable paper labyrinth. Corridor after corridor with colourful pre-loved books of all shapes and sizes adorning the shelves from floor to ceiling. The topics ranged from poetry, to science fiction, to history, to philosophy. There were children books, architecture books and books on languages.
Matt Henriksen (pictured above) explained that the bookstore was founded in 1978 by Donald Choffel and Charles O’Donnell in a small building across the road from where the business is currently located. Since then they have grown to fill up three buildings and an offsite warehouse. It’s not just the quantity of over 100,000 books that I find amazing, but the quality of selection. They reject two out of every three books that are submitted. It’s also astounding that there is no electronic catalog system. Walking into this bookstore is like taking a wonderful journey back in time when books … physical books … were a popular form of entertainment and means of acquiring knowledge, when reality television, social media and digital distractions did not exist.
So how does this happen, high quality stock and an astute knowledge about whats on the shelves in this paper labyrinth without electronic cataloging? Matt explained that they are quite connected with their customers. The staff talk with and listen to their customers because they tend to be the subject matter experts. They know the good publishers, the good authors, the topics of value, what people want to read, the diversity they seek. The staff in each section know exactly what is on the shelves and take pride in that. Both the staff and their customers share a love of reading and cherish books. Buzz Feed were right to include Dickson Street Bookshop in their article on "17 Bookstores That Will Literally Change Your Life". If you love books, enjoy reading and happen to be in Northwest Arkansas, put Dickson Street Bookshop on your list of places to visit.