Ah, the smell of books! You certainly can’t get that online. It’s a pleasure to feature yet another successful small bookshop this month, The Learned Owl Book Shop (www.learnedowl.com,) and to interview its owner/manager Kate Schlademan.
MUF: Learned Owl has recently made an apparently seamless transition to new ownership. What do you feel is special about your shop and what keeps you going?
Kate: Over the years The Learned Owl has become a hub for the community. Being almost 50 years old, many people have grown up coming to the store and now bring their children here. We are a meeting place and information place. We are very fortunate to have tremendous support from our community.
MUF: Describe the atmosphere of Learned Owl. What to you hope people will experience when they come in?
Kate: The store is housed in a building built in 1867. It has been a number of different things over the years including a carpentry shop, shoe repair, and art gallery. We have an upstairs and lower level with lots of nooks and crannies to explore. We always hope people will feel welcome and at home when they enter the store. Many people comment one two things: they love the smell of books when the walk in and it reminds them of the store in the movie You’ve Got Mail.
MUF: A small store has to be selective in its collection. How do you decide what books to carry, and how do you help a customer find his or her next book?
Kate: Deciding what inventory to carry is always difficult, especially when you consider the massive amount of books that are published every year. It is very important that I understand my market and customers. I try very hard to have a broad selection of titles for customers to choose from. When helping people select books, I always ask them what they like to read or what they have read recently that they enjoyed. This really helps me narrow down where to start.
MUF: As middle-grade authors, we have to ask: what are some titles– old or new, fiction or nonfiction– that you find yourselves recommending to middle grade readers these days?
Kate: Some of my current favorites as well as old stand-bys in no particular order are: The Apothecary series by Maile Meloy, School of Good and Evil series by Soman Chaining, The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, Counting By 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Three Times Lucky series by Sheila Turnage, Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, Poached series, by Stuart Gibb, 13 Story Treehouse series by Andy Griffiths and the Warriors original series by Erin Hunter.
MUF: Do you have any activities or events coming up that would be of special interest to readers ages eight to twelve?
Kate: We are having a launch party for Cinda Williams Chima’s new book Flamecaster on 4/5. She is local to the area and we are big fans.
MUF: How do you plan to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day next month?
Kate: We will have a number of specialty items for sale that day as well as hourly give aways. We are partnering with some other stores in the area to create a passport of independent bookstores to show how many are around and in hopes of getting people to visit as many as possible.
MUF: If a family from out of town came to visit the Learned Owl, are there family-friendly places in the neighborhood where they could get a meal or a snack afterward? And if they could spend more time, are there unique activities or places of interest nearby that a family would enjoy?
Kate: We have a number of family friendly restaurants within walking distance. We also have a few game and novelty shops which are fun to visit. The Cuyahoga National Park is about 15 minutes away and one of the most visited National Parks in the U.S. There are tons of trails to explore. We are only about 30-40 minutes south of Cleveland where we have a wonderful Art Museum, Natural History Museum, and you can’t forget the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. About 20 minutes south of us is Akron which also boasts a beautiful art museum and a minor league ball park which is always a fun option for affordable family fun.
MUF: Thank you, Kate. Readers, don’t you love the idea of a passport for visiting independent bookstores? If you’re in Ohio or planning to go, you might want to include Learned Owl Book Shop in your itinerary.
Sue Cowing is the author of the middle-grade puppet-and-boy novel, You Will Call Me Drog (Caroldrhoda 2011, Usborne UK 2012, Harpers UK 2014)