Literary Laredoans Fight to Keep City’s Last Bookstore Open

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Most folks order their books online these days (myself included I confess.) It’s convenient and sometimes cheaper. Still there’s nothing more satisfying then perusing a well-stocked bookstore, thumbing through the pages of a book that catches your eye. The serendipity of discovering a book on the shelves you’d never heard of but can’t wait to take home and read.

I feel better knowing that bookstores exist.

Laredoans are already mourning the loss of the last bookstore in their city. The city’s independent bookstore — Bookmark Books — closed in 2000. Now the B. Dalton bookstore at the Mall del Norte is slated for extinction at the end of January.

“There’s just something comforting about having a bookstore,” say Xochitl Mora, the public information officer for the City of Laredo. “A city needs a bookstore.”

Mora helps spearhead Laredo’s One City, One Book initiative. It’s a citywide bookclub that gets Laredoans reading and discussing important issues such as immigration and historical events such as the the Holocaust. Mora would order the books through B. Daltons — sometimes 500 books or more and Laredoans would purchase them there.

Not long ago Mora had award-winning journalist Sonia Nazario present her book “Enrique’s Journey” as part of the citywide bookclub.  “It had a lot of meaning for the author to be here because part of the book took place in Nuevo Laredo, our sister city,” says Mora.

She says the biggest pity is that the B. Daltons in Laredo is profitable from her understanding but as a division of Barnes and Noble it has not been so successful. The mega bookseller has decided to downsize its B. Dalton chain across the nation. Laredo is just one link in that chain.

So what are literary Laredoans to do? Mora says that she and other communications professionals in Laredo have formed a group called “Laredo Reads.” They are putting together a publicity campaign to lure a bookstore to the border city.  “We’ll find a way,” she says.

Perhaps bookstores will have to become nonprofits as so many media outlets are doing these days?

Next time I’m going to drive to my local bookstore and buy a book instead of giving Amazon my credit card number.

 

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. Melissa is a 2014-15 Lannan Fellow at The Investigative Fund.