Bookshop Coop aims to bring books on social issues to rural Wisconsin
STEVENS POINT – When asked what the difference is between buying a book on Amazon and Bookshop Co-op, a new business at Stevens Point, Member / Owner Justin Seis said the answer is simple : all.
Since last year, the cooperative has sold fiction and non-fiction books with themes on issues such as climate change, racial justice and human rights at events at Stevens Point and through their to place at librairie.org, a platform for local and independent bookstores to sell their articles online.
The co-op is now raising funds to purchase a vehicle – a bookmobile – that will allow them to take their books to rural communities in central Wisconsin that may not have bookstores.
“One of the big things we’re trying to accomplish is accessibility,” Seis said. “Reach people where they are.
Hailey Johnson, another of the six members / owners of the co-op, says that growing up in Waupaca, a community of about 6,000 people 30 miles east of Stevens Point, she wasn’t always sure where to go. find sources of information on issues of increasing interest to him, one example being environmentalism.
“When I was 15 and started to learn about deforestation, the rainforest and other climate issues and issues around the world, I was so frustrated (with the lack of learning resources)” Johnson said.
“It wasn’t until I got to college that I was able to immerse myself in some of the things that really excited me.”
People in rural communities may be able to buy books from a retailer like Amazon, Johnson said, but the co-op’s offerings go beyond what online retailers can offer readers.
“Amazon won’t know you at all. They’re going to base their suggestions on algorithms,” Johnson said. “We bring a personal touch. When someone says, “Hey, do you have any books on this? We say to ourselves: ‘We have books on this subject and you might like this one!’ “
Members of the cooperative raise funds for the vehicle through their “Fueling the Bookmobile” countryside, where donors can help purchase the bookmobile and have their name affixed to the vehicle, which they say will travel to places like Waupaca, Iola and Amherst, starting later this year.
As a cooperative, the Bookshop Co-op joins a number of businesses in the Stevens Point area using this business model – a business owned and managed by the people who work there.
Other businesses in the region that follow the cooperative model include Rising Sand Organics, a cultivate to Custer; Community Builders Co-op, a construction company at Stevens Point; and Company cooperative, a bar and café that will open in Stevens Point’s Central City Market at 2041 Madison St. The building currently houses Heavens to Betsy Ice Cream Parlor and will also bring businesses such as a bakery and stores selling canned goods and maple syrup to collaborate inside a restored 19th century dairy building.
These are in addition to the Stevens Point Area Co-op, 633 Second St., a grocery cooperative which has existed in the city since 1972.
For members of the cooperative, using this model is important because of the values involved, as well as the company’s ability to be successful.
It’s about “creating a business or an institution that democratizes work,” said Seis.
“Being a worker cooperative means one member, one vote,” he said. “And so, we are all equally invested in (the success of the cooperative).”
In their selection, the Bookshop Co-op offers books curated by members of the cooperative not only by subject, but by publishers.
For example, the co-op sells books from publishers such as Cornerstone Press, the student-run publishing house at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Johnson says that by choosing the publishers they work with, they can also ensure that book authors are paid fairly for their work.
Once they buy their vehicle, the co-op has more ambitions for their business, especially in community engagement, helping to sponsor events like writing workshops, game nights, and series. lectures on community issues.
Seis said he hoped the cooperative, whether by providing books or opportunities to talk about important issues at events, could help facilitate an exchange of information that goes beyond what might happen. through social media conversations or buying books from a major online retailer.
With social media, Seis said, there is no source verification, no nuanced discussion.
“It’s not often that you will see people weaving together an argument where they can provide historical narratives to give you a bigger and broader picture of life. What has been going on, how long has it been? is happening and what has been tried. “
But, across the country, Johnson said, people are going to face significant social and political issues, and that applies to people in rural areas as well.
An example given by Johnson is the Black Lives Matter movement against racism and police violence and the protests it inspired last summer.
“People are going to talk about it everywhere, even in places, maybe here, where we don’t necessarily experience this kind of police brutality,” she said. “So if people want to talk about it, they should be able to have resources to talk about it in an educated way and learn more about it,” instead of just repeating ideas that they agree with or are already familiar with.
Renee Hickman is a Wausau Daily Herald-based Report For America corps member covering rural issues in Wisconsin. Contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @ReneeNHickman. Please consider supporting the journalism that informs our democracy with a tax-deductible giveaway to this reporting effort at WausauDailyHerald.com/RFA.