Happy New Year!

Gather the stars if you wish it so
Gather the songs and keep them.
Gather the faces of women.
Gather for keeping years and years.
And then…
Loosen your hands, let go and say good-bye.
Let the stars and songs go.
Let the faces and years go.
Loosen your hands and say good-bye.

-Carl Sandburg

Fifteen Years Down

And how many more to go?

Thinking back to when I decided to purchase Otter Creek Used & Rare Books…

When I went for that fateful walk, leaving my cluttered desk to clear my head and figure out whatever issue I was dealing with. A brochure? The website? Wrapping up a project? I don’t remember. But I walked along Main Street and noted in front of the Lazarus Building a sign proclaiming “Used Bookstore For Sale. Inquire Inside.” I didn’t hesitate. I walked in, down the stairs, and asked, “How much?” He told me his price so I turned around and walked back up the hill to the Painter House to call my husband. “We are buying a used bookstore.” “Ok!” And to the bank I went.

Obviously the bank approved my loan and I went back to the store to hand over the check. I decided to take ownership on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. When I went in to accept the keys and other information he announced that the day before he had the best sales he ever had since owning the store. At first, I thought, darn! That should have been mine. But I quickly recovered and thought what a nice way for him to exit. He deserved it. How much did he make? I’ve no idea. I never asked him and he didn’t offer the information.

My first day, I tore apart the upstairs entry way. The books on the shelves disintegrated in my hand from the daily exposure to the sun streaming in from the large window. I changed out whatever had been in the window and cleaned and cleaned and cleaned that window. Inside and out. I wanted everyone to know a new owner was now in possession of Otter Creek Used Books. Yes, I dropped “& Rare Books” as I didn’t find any rare books when looking over the newly aquired inventory.

The first year owning the store I stayed in my position at ACCOC and worked weekends at OCUB. To pay the store’s bills. I roped my son and future son-in-law to run the store week days. Many days it was just sitting in the store with hardly anyone coming down the stairs. When I was in, I opened both doors – upstairs front and the basement back – to get some air circulation and to entice shoppers. Soon both doors were being used by customers.

One day while hanging out on the front patio I witnessed a block of cement fall from the overpass ceiling. Yikes! That wasn’t good. I decided to be proactive and find another site for the store. From my past workings with VTRANS and VT Railway, I recognized I could be shut down anytime. After a few inquiring phone calls, I spoke with Ryan at the MarbleWorks and he said, “I’ve got the perfect spot.” And I went right over to get a tour of this ‘perfect spot’ he was referring to. He was right! It was perfect and still is. We signed an agreement and the ‘Great Move’ began. Two months of moving something daily. Boxes of books, to display items. Shelving was torn down to be reassembled in the new space. Slowly sections materized and filled up with books. And the store became what it is today.

I want this space to be comfortable. Full of quality and interesting books. Priced to sell. My philosophy and business plan has always been to present this store as one would enter years before the interent. An old fashioned used bookstore. Like one found on the streets of NYC – Book Row – in the 30’s. Except heated, uncovered windows for natural light, and a pleasant bookseller who will sell you a book. 😉 Even if it’s one she’s currently reading.

I’m a very lucky used bookstore owner. Fifteen years owning OCUB. Ten years in the Historic MarbleWorks.

Rows and rows of books lined the shelves and I let my eyes linger on the sturdy spines, thinking how human books were, so full of ideas and images, worlds imagined, worlds perceived; full of fingerprints and sudden laughter and the sighs of readers, too.  – Kim Edwards, The Lake of Dreams

Celebrate With Me – 15 Years!

Books can be possessive, can’t they? You’re walking around in a bookstore and a certain one will jump out at you, like it had moved there on its own, just to get your attention. Sometimes what’s inside will change your life, but sometimes you don’t even have to read it. Sometimes it’s a comfort just to have a book around. – Sarah Addison Allen, The Sugar Queen

In honor of my owning OCUB, stop by and enjoy a 50% Sale. Yes, half-off each and every book in the store.

As Ben, owner of The Country Bookshop in Plainfield, VT, says when you have a sale make it fun. And what can be better than offering a 50% sale? Nothing! So whenever OCUB has a sale I follow Ben’s advice. He’s never wrong and I’ve been turning to him and others for fifteen years.

November now through Saturday November 27 the store will be hosting the sale. Yes, all books are 50% off. Come and help me celebrate.

In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend. – Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind

Open: Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-4pm. In the MarbleWorks.
Down Printers Alley from Main Street.

It’s Otterly Good

These places are time machines, spaceships, story-makers, secret-keepers. They are dragon-tamers, dream-catchers, fact-finders, and safe places. They are full of infinite possibilities and tales worth taking home. – Jen Campbell, The Bookshop Book

It’s been almost two months since my operation and I’m happy to report that I’m starting to walk normal. Still feel like a zombie in motion but each day I know I’m walking better. So exciting! So relieving! Just have to make sure I don’t push myself like I tend to. 

I was recently interviewed for Middlebury College’s newspaper, The Middlebury Campus. I had a great conversation/interview with Florence Wu who asked questions that I generally don’t get asked. Thought provoking quesetions. She took amazing photos of the store which, I feel, captured the soul of the store. You can read the article here: https://middleburycampus.com/56567/local/barbara-harding-i-bought-a-bookstore-and-quit-my-job/

One picture she took was of me standing. I first looked at it and thought but that doesn’t look natural. I was shocked and dismayed in how I looked. But then I looked again and realized, no, she got me in the early stages of healing. I’m standing straight! I’m standing without leaning on something or favoring my right leg.  I’m standing on both feet. How exciting. I am starting to shelve again! (And lose weight!)

The store is doing well with new arrivals. Storage area and boxes are getting emptied. Life is going well!

Hold up your head! You were not made for failure, you were made for victory. Go forward with a joyful confidence.George Eliot


And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about. – Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore.  

I’m not comparing my life to any of the characters in the above mentioned novel but to my long ordeal worrying about my leg and then it becoming a hip issue. And other factors currently going on in my life. I will survive because I will. This chapter of my life. I’m ready to move on and get it behind me and walk forward. To leave my cane behind and walk upright as one should.

I will be reporting to the hospital soon. I’m looking forward to it. To when I can walk up/down steps perfectly, and going for hikes or my ‘clearing my head’ walks that I’ve been doing many, many years. I miss all that. Even to, or maybe especially to, walk around the store carrying an armload of books to shelve. To sweep or mop without going into agony. To do things one tends to take for granted.

I will be away from the store August 21-30, back August 31. Returning to hopefully dancing and skipping in the store’s aisles. Or at least in my head until I can.

I have been working on my stack of books to bring for my overnight stay in the hospital. I’ve cut it down to five. Well, I just don’t know what my mood will be so I have to cover all emotions. I know a number of you will understand. I’ve extra batteries for my booklight because we all know what happens when it goes out and you are stuck in the dark. Especially in a hospital room when you already know you won’t be getting any zzz’s. Snacks. Just simple little chocolate things to perk up my spirits. And flowers. For the joy they will bring.

For my home stay I already have books stacked at my bedside. Yes, there will be different stacks. Again, many of you will relate and completely understand. And food choices. I will spend next week preparing my menu that will make me happy and feel good. And after some time my diet will begin. With limited exercise my weight, well, will just leave it at that.

The store will be open while I’m recuperating. And in very capabile hands. Carrie, David Mumford (DM) and, of course, Hannah will hold down the fort.

I want to thank all those who have talked to me about their hip replacements. I appreciate all the stories and advice. It is encouraging. And easier to face.

And I want to thank those who have accepted the flexible store hours I’ve imposed. Some days it has been hard to make it to 4pm or to even sit. I hope to return to regular hours when I return. Or soon afterwards.

Thank you all!

Used Books

In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. – Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive. – James Baldwin

Owning a used bookstore is everything you’d think it would be. And then some! I say and write that all the time. It is so amazing. Because, if you think of it, all these books, are mine. I thought of that one day. I own each and everyone of these books. If I were to close up the store tomorrow I get to choose which books are coming home with me.

Fortunately I don’t think that way. I am excited to be the holder of books until the rightful owner comes along. Sometimes the customer finds the book they want. Sometimes it is the book who finds the customer. Have you ever experienced walking into a bookstore and all of a sudden spy the book that looks so interesting? So delicous that you have to pick it up and devour it? It could be the title. The cover. The dust jacket. But something says to you, “Read me!” I hear so many examples of that and it warms my heart.

Shopping in a used bookstore is a good thing. Owning a used bookstore is a good thing, too.

He calls books freedoms. And homes too. They preserve all the good words that we so seldom use. Leniency. Kindness. Contradiction. Forbearance. – Nina George, The Little Paris Bookshop

Change is Good. Otterly Good.

What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain. – Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

Change is good. I’ve always told myself. And I still believe it. Good. Bad. If it’s bad, it’ll eventually turn into good.

So what are the changes? First, I’ve broken down and started using a cane. Ok. I didn’t really break down. The doctor ordered me. So I hobbled to the Medicine Chest and left with a blue cane that is now to be my best friend. And I’ve started a program to get my leg healed correctly. There’s a lot of hiking I need to do this summer. So the cane thing will be short lived.

Another change is Carrie. Carrie will be coming in to help me out. Huge! It’s hard to maneuver with a cane and an armload of books. If you’ve been in the store recently you will understand this. There are so many boxes that need to be sorted, cleaned, priced and ultimately shelved. Regular sweeping has been neglected as well as dusting. So I cried UNCLE and Carrie responded. Actually she is a good friend of Hannah so she’s part family. And she has a young son who might join her some days to add to the fun.

Currenty the store is showing local artist, Alice Eckles. I’ll have more information on her later. She just recently hung pieces throughout the store found on ends of bookcases to tucked into empty wall spaces. Perfect timing! Perfect uplift.

Cheer up, Crips, and keep smiling. That’s the thing to do. If you go through life with a smile on your face, you’ll be amazed how many people will come up to you and say ‘What the hell are you grinning about? What’s so funny?’ Make you a lot of new friends. – P.G. Wodehouse.

Otterly April = Spring!

Well, here it is April. The last few months have gone by somewhat fast for me. During March I had several weeks off. A staycation though it wasn’t suppose to be. It was to be a wandering trip but well, things happen so it was a stay at home time. David Mumford, the remarkable one that he is, manned the store, with Hannah covering Saturdays. While at home I did nurse my leg and relaxed. Got a lot of reading in. And I did manage to scout out some books, bookends and other used bookstore fun stuff.

I’m back in the store and I believe that the books have mulitpled while I was gone. I returned a couple of weeks ago and during this time have been accepting books, cleaning, sorting and shelving. The endless task which I thoroughly enjoy. But the store is certainly exploding. A lot of fiction, Vermont, Civil War, music, biography, poetry, and everything in between. It never gets old.

I’ve been trying to get myself to keep the store open until 5pm but with my leg situation by the time 4pm comes around my leg is screaming out and it zaps my energy so I need to leave, go home and elevate it. I try to not walk around the store as much but yet, the books aren’t jumping to shelf themselves. So I plot out my steps, load my arms, and make a round of shelving. If you look around my desk you’ll see stacks of books ready to go but I wait until I’m generally alone in the store so I won’t make anyone uncomfortable. In a couple of weeks I’ll find out more regarding my leg. Until then I thank customers for being patient with me. It’s been a long haul but my fingers are crossed it’ll be healed soon.

“Standing there, staring at the long shelves crammed with books, I felt myself relax and was suddenly at peace.” – Helene Hanff, Q’s Legacy: A Delightful Account of a Lifelong Love Affair with Books

Ugh! February!

So that means it’s time for the
All books half off. 50%. Yes, all books. And yes, I hate February and will always hate the month.

Don’t bother handing me chocolate, flowers or any of that nonsense because I do not like February and there is no changing it. And I understand February is the shortest month. When you hate it as much as I do it becomes the longest month. If that doesn’t sound reasonable to you well, that is how much I don’t like February.

So let’s get through this month together. I’ll provide the half-off books, and chocolate. Maybe I’ll spring for flowers for the desk too. I certainly could use some cheering up.


“Why, what’s the matter,
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?” – Shakespeare