More than shelves of books: Project memorializes Seminary Co-op Bookstore – Chicago Tribune

Two smart and lively young women, Jasmine Kwong and Megan Doherty, have spent much of their time over the past five years trying to capture the meaning of a bookstore.

As they write in the foreword to the book that is the manifestation of their energetic and heartfelt efforts, “We set out to document the Co-op … to create as complete a visual record of it as possible.” They took many photos, talked with employees and customers and before they knew it they had a book that they deem a “gathering of priceless observations of how a bookstore can become a sanctuary, a community. Home.”

And it’s a wonderful and, in its quiet way, an important book. “If You Weren’t Looking For It: The Seminary Co-op Bookstore” is the sort of homage that every independent bookstore — a sadly vanishing breed — deserves though few have as storied a history as does this one.

The Seminary Co-op, which the women rightly call “the most highly regarded academic bookstore in the world,” began in 1961 when a handful of students and faculty each ponied up $10 toward the purchase of 100 books and rent on a basement space in the Chicago Theological Seminary (hence the store’s name) at East 58th Street and University Avenue in the heart of the University of Chicago‘s campus in Hyde Park.

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