San Diego Book Crawl returns with newcomer Libélula Books
This weekend marks the fifth annual San Diego Book Crawl, a multi-day event that brings together eleven of the region's independent bookstores: Bay Books in Coronado, Bluestocking Books in Hillcrest, DIESEL in Del Mar, La Playa Books in Point Loma, Libélula Books & Co in Barrio Logan, Library Shop downtown, Mysterious Galaxy in Sports Arena/Point Loma, The Book Catapult in South Park, UC San Diego Bookstore at UCSD, Verbatim Books in North Park and Warwick's in La Jolla.
Scott Ehrig-Burgess, manager of the Library Shop and public engagement manager for the Library Foundation of San Diego, said that it all began six years ago, when a colleague came back from the San Diego Yarn Crawl (yes, it's real) suggesting that they try one for books. The group doesn't officially count the first year, because it was just three shops: Verbatim Books, Bluestocking and Library Shop.
Ehrig-Burgess said that at first they printed up tote bags in the back of the store and sold out of totes within the first hour.
"So at that point, we realize we're onto something, and we opened it up to the other indies in all of San Diego," he said.
After switching to a completely virtual model in 2020, several stores were able to offer some in-person programming in the 2021 event, but many bookstores weren't ready to open up yet. The 2022 event is officially considered the first in-person Book Crawl since 2019.
This year, it's three days — Saturday, April 30 through Monday, May 2, 2022 — with each of the 11 stores holding unique business hours. "We do things our own way," Ehrig-Burgess quipped.
The public can visit as many bookstores as they want, and if they spend $5, they get a stamp on their Book Crawl passport. Five stamps gets you a tote bag. Eight means you'll get the highly sought after enamel pin designed each year for the crawl by Susie Gharemani. Visit all 11 bookstores and you'll receive a 3D-printed trophy, which Ehrig-Burgess claims is glow in the dark.
New to this year's crawl is the LGBTQ+, BIPOC-owned Libélula Books and Co. in Barrio Logan, which just opened in May of 2021. Not even a year old, the store is already establishing itself as an important player in the literary and artistic community, having hosted an impressive series of discussions, readings and arts community events.
Jesi Gutierrez, who cofounded Libélula with Celi Hernandez, said that being asked to join the San Diego Book Crawl was exciting.
"We got picked to be on the team! Which was awesome, because I love all of the booksellers in San Diego. I've gone to all the shops as a consumer and reader," Gutierrez said. "But then also because I really do believe in the internal community that's built around books and the external — just in this process we've gotten to come together and talk as booksellers and share mutual experiences. And it's just really cool to have insight to the fact that we're not all alone, just out here on an island."
Book recommendations (of course we asked!):
Jesi Gutierrez, co-owner, Libélula Books and Co in Barrio Logan:
- "The Street Belongs to Us," by Karleen Pendleton Jimenez (middle-grade)
"It is just a really cool piece on identity and adventure and growing up on a street that you've known your whole life, and then it getting torn up, creating a whole other environment for you to be in, and see where that mystery and that flip of environment takes you. It's centered around a young person coming to terms with their body and their gender expression while also grappling with being mixed race," Gutierrez said.
- "The Lost Dreamer," by Lizz Huerta (young adult)
Check out our interview with Lizz Huerta about "The Lost Dreamer" here.
Scott Ehrig-Burgess, manager, Library Shop:
- "Palaces for the People" by Eric Klinenberg (non-fiction, adult)
"It's about these great public institutions that have been around for many years that we sort of take for granted now. So parks, libraries specifically, since I work at the Library Shop that's something that I'm super passionate about, obviously. And the library is sort of the last place in our society now where we can all come together from different walks of life, different perspectives, and be able to have a safe conversation with each other," Ehrig-Burgess said. Klinenberg was on Midday Edition in 2019 to discuss the book.
Gutierrez quickly added that Libélula is really on an island of sorts. The bookstore is housed in the sole building on a small, curiously triangular block surrounded by Sicard Street to the west, National Avenue to the south and 26th Street to the east.
"And then I'm Latinx, so I'm always down for a party, and Independent Book Crawl has always been a party for myself as a reader and a consumer, and now I just get to be on the other side," they said.
Gutierrez worked as a literacy and art integration educator in Barrio Logan for seven years prior to opening the store, and first dreamed up Libélula Books primarily as a place for their students to go after school. But it mostly comes down to loving books.
"I love books," Gutierrez said. "They definitely hold a special place in my heart because I grew up around a lot of books. My second home was the library. I'm really grateful for public libraries — I still refer to them as the People's University."
Libélula declares itself a "Queer IPOC/Felonista-owned" bookstore, putting inclusivity first and foremost in their store's identity. For Gutierrez, it's a no-brainer.
"My partner and I, those are just parts of who we are. So it seems very natural and important to be open about that so that folks that align with that identity as well find a home within our space, and feel welcome and celebrated, and not so alienated," they said.
This identity is a big part in the books Libélula stocks on their shelves (though, "first and foremost, I pick books I like," Gutierrez said).
"We do try to center narratives and voices from folks that maybe don't always have a big platform," they said. "So we are definitely going to be uplifting voices of color, Indigenous and Black folks that are doing storytelling, and that's just a huge part of their culture to begin with, and my culture as an Indigenous person. And then also LGBTQ experiences that don't all end in demise or a sad ending."
Both Gutierrez and Ehrig-Burgess agree that independent bookstores are an important experience for readers, and the Book Crawl is a good example of the sort of things you miss when you shop online or at a chain.
"If you go to our 11 stores, no two stores are going to be alike. We all have our own vibe. We all have our own approach. The only thing that's the same is we all love books, and we're pretty confident that you're going to fall in love with the book that a bookseller handed you," Ehrlig-Burgess said. "It's going to be a better experience than an algorithm."
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