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Zoom Focus: a Kids-Eye View of the Capital Region

That’s what I’m calling my new column in the Capital District Parent Pages.  My idea is to highlight smaller, not often noticed/branded companies or people or services offering something cool, family-related, and preferrably philanthropic, here in New York’s lovely (but currently cold) Capital District Region.

Here is December 2010’s column: it’s not my best writing but I gave it a shot; reporter-type writing isn’t my forte…

Zoom Focus: a Kids-Eye View of the Capital Region

By Amy Wink Krebs

 The Book Barn Celebrates 20 Years as Local

Treasure Trove of Children’s Books – and More

If you’ve never been to the Book Barn and you like books, I implore you to put down this paper and get yourself to Latham.  From the Traffic Circle, travel east two miles or so on Route 2 toward Watervliet, and turn into the plaza across from Stewart’s, just past the traffic light.   There you’ll find the biggest, most organized, well-stocked, best-priced, highest-quality used book store I’ve ever seen; with its ever-changing inventory of mystery, romance, classics, history, cookbooks, self-help, memoirs, photography (the list goes on and on) and –of course – children’s books, this place is bibliophile heaven.  Add to that the knowledge, intellect, and courtesy of Dan Driggs (co-owner, with wife Cheryl) and we’ve got ourselves a local gem.

To keep a used bookstore alive and thriving for 20 years in a world of big box bookstores and e-readers is no small feat.  Dan does it simply, by offering an ever-changing inventory of excellent condition (or better), gently-read books at incredibly low prices.  He’s old fashioned.  He won’t be offering you a frappacino and he doesn’t host a book club.  You can’t buy a gourmet candy bar or an oversized mug at the counter… but you can have a free lollipop and, if you’re lucky, a story or joke.  This is a man who sells books, and well; he loves what he does and it shows.  Without any inventory system, he can almost always tell you whether he has any particular book in stock. 

Some of my favorite authors are young adult authors – Paterson and Cormier, Paulsen and Lowry – so when I visit the store, I usually walk straight back to the Kids Korner, where at any given time there are literally ten thousand children’s books, all in awesome condition.  Board books, chapter books, series books, young adult novels, and others line the shelves – children’s books priced at $1.75, $1.45 – even 95 cents.  There are two big bins where I’ve found like-new copies of Little Golden, Maisy, and other great pre-schooler and early reader books.  Dan’s even got an impressive collection of comics, all priced at just 75 cents each.  “I just want a kid to own and read a comic if he wants,” he diffidently admitted.

Dan’s placed a few vintage wooden school chairs, table, and a little desk in the Kids Korner, creating a comfortable, child-sized place for youngsters to browse and sample.  I met eight-year old Briana Benson from Stillwater there this day.   “What do you like to read?” I asked her.  She smiled and shyly showed me “In Search of the Saveopotomas.” 

One great thing, of course, is that there are between 500 and 1,000 books shelved in the Kids Korner every month.  Dan is constantly updating his inventory, so The Book Barn is quite literally never the same store twice.  And every  year, Dan stocks up on Shaker High School’s required summer reading so he’ll have a nice inventory of what’s on the list. 

Most days when I visit, I pile books high in my arms, unable to stop myself despite my best intention to get “just one book.”  In a big box bookstore I’d easily be well into the hundreds of dollars, but at The Book Barn I can buy a dozen or more paperbacks for a fraction of that.  Some of the books I’ve bought have spines unbroken and are in gift-giving condition.  And the holidays are coming!  The care Dan takes with handling, cleaning, and shelving his books is remarkable, and the prices unbeatable.  If you haven’t been there, you’re missing out.

 Congratulations, Dan and Cheryl, for 20 years of independent ownership success at the Book Barn! 

 The Book Barn, 786-1368, is open weekdays from 10-8, Saturday from 10-6, and Sunday from 11-5.

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