August 10 2012 Middlebury Arts Walk @ OCUB

Poetry in the Park[ing Lot]

Inspiration can be found anywhere. Including a parking lot. Be a part of a Poetry Event!


Marble Works Signage

Drive to and park in the north Marble Works parking lot with a copy of your favorite poem. Post the poem in your car windshield for all to read as one mingles through the lot.

Then stop in the store and view our featured poet, local resident, Ginger Dowling Miller.


all poetry books will be 50% off during the Arts Walk, August 10, 2012,  5 pm-7 pm.

“Each space in the parking lot is marked with a simple bit of wisdom.”

Catching Up With OCUB

Hello! I have been so busy and I’ve been wanting to update my blog but well, you know how I am – or you should – I can’t stand boxes and clutter. Especially boxes all around me in the front room. (Still need to come up with a cool name for this room.) I’ve had a lot of boxes come in so that means I’ve been busy. Busy SPSing. You know, sorting/pricing/shelving. Getting books up on the shelves and keeping the room sort-of respectable-like. I do have to write that currently I am surrounded with boxes of books: french, children, spirituality, over-sized art and wildlife, and at my feet…well, I started a pile I’ve set aside for me to read. It is Saturday and I just want a little break.

I have a lot to write about! One thing, the book I highlighted in my last post…sold! I was sad but yet I knew it was going to a great home so I was excited. Mixed emotions. It sold because the woman who purchased it read my blog and came in to look at and hold the book. I admitted I tucked the book away – sure it was on a shelf but one had to look for it. She was excited it was still here. I hope the lucky recipient enjoys it as much as she and I do.

The Vermont History Expo was held in Tunbridge several weekends ago and on that Sunday I went down to help out in the VABA booth along with some of my fav VT used bookstore owners. In the few hours that we were all together we had great conversations ranging from customer habits (Yes, all good! Ok, mostly.), to how we really feel about used books (we love them, of course!), what sells and what doesn’t, and we threw in some ghost stories to make it all interesting. Unfortunately I cannot upload the photos I took that day. My laptop faded out early last week. It really just faded out. Now I am using a new-to-me Mac that my daughter gave me. Ugh! Going from a PC to an Apple is a very difficult thing. For me. I’m not complaining because her husband is pulling out my files and transferring to another new-to-me laptop. So I am patiently waiting to receive that computer. When I receive it then I’ll post those images and get on with my postings.

I’m constantly asked what I read. Well, I’ve recently started reading VT women authors: Kathryn Davis,  Sue Halpern and Suzi Wizowaty to name a few. Of course Dorothy Canfield Fisher is who I’ll be going to next. Then onto one of the nicest woman around (yes, a local author), Julia Alvarez. Plus in-between I have been reading books on books or bookstores: Ulin’s, “The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time” and in the middle of Margaret Hard’s “A Memory of Vermont: Our Life in the Johnny Appleseed Bookshop.” And to really mix it up I’m almost done with a May Sarton book, “Shadow of a Man,” to which I’m most grateful to one of my amazing customers for making the author suggestion.

So sorting, pricing, shelving (constantly) and throw in cleaning the books as they come out of the boxes, reading, embroidering I’ve been keeping busy. Note I didn’t mention cleaning my house….yeah….


Books That Excite Little Otter Me!

Oh! I admit there are certain types of books that come into the store that truly excite me. And I openly admit they are hard for me to put on the shelf but I do. I know! How mature.  Here is one that just came in. Isn’t it awesome? It fits perfectly in the hand. Has enough wear that puts it over the edge of greatness. The title is “Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music: A Description of the Character and Music of Birds, Intended to Assist in the Identification of Species Common in the United States East of the Rocky Mountains,” written by F. Schuyler Mathews. It is a revised edition (1921) printed by G. P. Putnam’s Sons. Why aren’t more books like this published now?

Awesome Book!

Songs of the Meadowlark


mmmm….Do You Smell That? Take A DEEP Breathe…. :)

So…chemists at University College in London investigated  the odor of books and have concluded that “old books release hundreds of volatile organic compounds into the air from the paper.” Okay. I get that. Well, the lead scientist has described the smell as “A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness.” And that’s why we all love the smell of old books! Acids and vanilla = perfect combo!

Researching a bit on this topic I learned that there is now a scratch-it that releases the smell of old books. To put on one’s I-pad or Nook or other e-readers. Really? That’s crazy! So people think that they can add a scratch-it sticker and feel better holding their e-reader because now it’ll seem like holding a book? mmm. I find that just craziness. Why not just purchase a used book? I guarantee you’ll appreciate that book a whole lot better. Remember it’s the experience.




2012 VABA Book Fair Angst

I finally agreed to participate in the upcoming Vermont Antiquarian Book Fair. Great but I’m kinda worried about what books to bring.  I started pulling books off shelves and filling up boxes then started seconding guessing myself. I put them all back. I shouldn’t fret so but I do. And I think, why did I agree to do this? I admit I did so under pressure from the VT Bricks & Mortar Society and my fellow used bookstore friend in CA. They all gave convincing reasons why. Okay, they really didn’t have to twist my arm. Very much. It is good publicity. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to stress out about it.

I admit it does sound like fun. And the thought of being on the other side of the table  is intriguing. You see, I use to go as a shopper and admirer and would enter each booth in pure anticipation.  And I would always splurge on one book at the event. Like a lot of money. And would leave with a small pile plus that special book. Actually if you want to know the truth, and know I’m rolling my eyes as I type this, we were one of the first ones – or tried to be – to enter the fair. Seriously. We would stand in line at least one hour beforehand. Nerds.

I don’t have table-top bookcases. That’s the other thing I’m worried about. How to display.  Rusty said he would make some bookcases to my specifications and earlier today I was trying to decide: do I paint them blue – to stand out, of course – or leave them natural. Unpainted for that a dignified look. Or painted white/off white to highlight the books. Well, doing it as me won out. So I’m going to paint them blue. Or maybe lime green. Or what about the red I also have on hand? Ugh!

See what I mean? So many decisions: what books to bring, how to display, what color bookcases, doilies yes or no, bookends, what else? One week count down. I’ll post pictures. In the meantime, I’ll work to get my act together. I know it’ll all work out. And it’ll be great.



Even Cowgirls and Used Bookstore Ladies Get the Blues

Yea. When I add a new post I’m in a good mood. Today not so much. And I thought I would post about it because, well, frankly it isn’t always peaches & cream in a used bookstore. Granted, one can make it what one wants and just because I’m down right now doesn’t mean I won’t snap out of it. In fact, I’ve already decided how to get myself out of this mess I’m in. (in my head mess.)

First to address my mood and why. It can’t be about all the boxes that have just come in. No, because that’s always exciting. They are luring me to open them up and explore. I’ve had some sales this morning so that’s good. I think it’s from yesterday. In the afternoon I was online and checking out different blogs and of course, Facebook. From one of the many places I visited I came across a used bookstore in England and fell in love with it. And it hit me – which I think has carried over to today – that it is hard work to create a space, fill that space and maintain it all alone. There is SO much I want to do here and I underestimated myself that I thought I would be at least half way there by now. But I’m so far from being halfway. Don’t get me wrong I’m very happy but also frustrated.

My motto in my other location was “one book at a time” as I was trying to change out the inventory to more quality books. It’s more than that here. It’s rearranging, putting up bookends, alphabetizing, painting, building or securing more bookcases to fit open spaces, shelving and very importantly, getting a grip on the storage area. I want, at least, a path to the fridge! And never mind about dealing with all the boxes!

Ok! That’s enough. Time to get myself together. Gonna put a “back in 10 minutes” sign to check the mail. Walk around the block. And stop in at Stoneleaf Tea House and get a cup of tea to go. Going to try a new flavor. Something with green tea and rice. Sounds interesting and refreshing, huh? Then I’ll be ready to tackle whatever comes my way for the rest of the day and continue to plug along! And I’ll be in a great mood.



For the Love of Used Books

Last month I hosted a small group of VABA members who also have a storefront with regular hours. As opposed to just selling inventory online from home. We all have books we sell online but we are dedicated to maintaining our stores.

Interesting sharing our stories: how we got into the business, what brought us to our current store location,  pitfalls of having a storefront as well as the joys and of course, dealing with customers. The good, the bad and the funny. I didn’t take many notes like I wanted to because I was so caught up listening. I did take down a title of a book one used bookstore owner wants to write:  “How to Make a Small Fortune in the Book Business.” We laughed out loud. Yea…um…it’s a joke. We are only wealthy in and through our inventory. We only make money when the books sell. So…making a small fortune…it can be done but the books that could make us a fortune don’t sell very often. All around our biggest expense is our rent. And rent is what can break owners to close their storefront. We are pretty dedicated to hold out.

The really good thing for me was that I discovered I am running my store on par with those who have had a storefront for many, many years. I was able to walk away from the meeting with the confirmation that I’m doing okay with pricing and quality of books. I’m feeling the quality is increasing.

It was a great meeting and I was honored to host the first of what I hope to be many more. I should have taken a photo  of the group but like I mentioned earlier I really got caught up in our conversations, wanting to be a great hostess, and also was a tad nervous because I look up to them all and I want to be accepted as a used bookstore lady.

Here are some additonal bulleted notes that I did manage to jot down:

  • Occasionally run a zip code survey. If anything, great to see where customers come from – visitors to the area. (shades of my old profession)
  • Get off my Amazon boycott and start listing my online inventory through the website. Unfortunately that’s where most people go when looking for a book. Most online sales are generated there. (rats!)
  • Radio! A great story was told by one bookstore owner of running an ad for some time and then removing it because  no one ever mentioned it. Then several years after it had been dropped, people started coming into the store singing the ad jingle. Needless to say, he started the radio ad up again. So now I’ve got to come up with a cool jingle.
  • Store owners can have a passion for collecting books but keep it out of the store. In other words, don’t bring anything into the store you won’t sell. Once it comes into the store it has to be for sale. I have a good story on that: I wanted to buy a book in a used bookstore but the owner really didn’t want to sell it. He started quizzing me to see if I was worthy to purchase it. Yea, I walked out and went online to make the purchase. It was before I bought this store. Customers don’t like to be tested.
  • Other misc notes: jacket protectors, free box near the door, better signage, develop a VT brick & mortar used bookstore (car) trail.



Window Display @ Nat’l Bank of Midd

Excited to set-up a display in the National Bank of Middlebury’s window this morning. Right on Main Street. Grabbed furniture from home, books from the store and misc other stuff from both places. There was so much I wanted to include but really, really, really disciplined myself to edit it all down. Wanted it to be clean – uncluttered – so it would have more of an eye appeal.

Of course I created a character who lived in the space. Pretty interesting when I picked out a couple of books and realized I actually based it on a real person – not just someone within my head – my mother-in-law. So I sent Rusty into fiction and told him to pick out books she would have read and he came up with the selection found on one of the shelves. I think she’d be proud that we thought of her in such a way.

I also included a couple of my favorite books within the display. Taking a gamble that no one will inquire about them. I know I couldn’t sell them. Yea, I know, very selfish! But hey, that’s one of the perks of owning a used bookstore! 😉

And the Word of the Week is…

Karma.  Well, actually that was last week’s word. Because of Karma’s sake I won’t go into why it was the word of the week. Best to leave things like that alone. Things, situations, people. Alone. Did you know books also have karma? I believe they do. ….karma

Webster says...

So that brings us to this week’s word which is Trust! A much better word. But it is a scary word. Why? Because it is has such power. Think of it. Trust. “Trust your instincts.” “Trust in the Lord.” Confidence. Faith. To feel secure. Trust. So I’m doing a lot of trusting this week. And I hope it pays off.


You didn’t think running a used bookstore was so interesting, huh? It’s not always about the book(s).

Elephant bookends just made their way into the store.

And then something fun happens. Makes my day!

2012! Otterly Fantastic!

I am so excited about 2012 with all the changes that have happened here in the store. For one, the new location. I am very happy here in Middlebury’s Marble Work area. Just a few steps from Main Street. Not that far from the previous location.

Just for the record, only one person has complained about the store’s new location. I just chalk it up to her being a cranky old lady. 🙂

I’m still settling in. I thought I would have been done by now but I’m not. Seems every other day a friend comes by to bring in new inventory so I’ve been dealing with those boxes. I have gone to the storage units. I’ve opened the doors and well, looked in and then closed the door. I don’t know why. Some day I’ll tackle them. Hopefully soon. Got some great books in those boxes.

Took a couple of days and went book scouting. That is so much fun! And no sooner than those books got unpacked and shelved they were sold. Makes me feel good. I’m knowing my customers.

Stop by. Poke around. And remember you can find some of my books online by visiting or And  while you are at it check out the VABA (Vermont Antiquarian Booksellers Association) website: