Spotlight on an Indie Bookstore: Lemuria Books
Mississippi has a long and fascinating literary culture. It is the birthplace of some of literature’s greatest writers, from Eudora Welty to William Faulkner to John Grisham. It is also home to some of the country’s best independent bookstores. It is with great pleasure that I get to introduce you to one of those stores today, Lemuria Books in Jackson, Mississippi. Walk into Lemuria and you walk into a book lover’s dream. Floor to ceiling bookshelves line the walls and are filled to the brim – each book carefully hand selected by the staff. They are known for their unique collection, smart and engaging staff, impressive lineup of author events, and their First Editions Club (read more about the FEC here).
I have had the pleasure of working with Emily, the mastermind behind the children’s section which occupies its own room called OZ, for the last three years—a period of time in which I’ve watched her grow the children’s business, host many very successful children’s author events, and expand the store’s influence and reach in the community. I’m excited that Emily has agreed to give you a glimpse of this one-of-a-kind bookstore, and I hope that you have the chance to check it out one day! You can follow Emily and the other wonderful Lemuria booksellers on their blog.
Share a little background on the store.
Lemuria Books in Jackson, MS is home to a wide variety of readers whose passionate approach to books produces a thriving reading community not just in Jackson, but in the large metro area surrounding it. Established in 1975 by John Evans, Lemuria is the oldest bookstore in Mississippi and was late Jackson resident Eudora Welty’s favorite bookstore. We are proud to support a large community of writers, authors, students, and teachers. We host author readings and signings, book clubs, storytime, as well as book parties and talks.
What is your role or your day-to-day job responsibilities?
I am technically the Children’s Manager, Buyer, and Event Planner, but I do just about everything in the kid’s room from displays to scheduling to working with the schools in the area. My day-to-day responsibilities vary, but most days you can find me in the store, helping customers and working at my little yellow desk.
What sets Lemuria apart from chain stores or online competitors?
I know I may be biased, but Lemuria is so different from anything else I have ever seen. Each book here, whether in the kid’s store or in the main store, has been hand-selected by one of our employees. We are constantly re-calibrating sections, finding the best books on each topic. And the sheer number of books! Even if we don’t have the exact book you are looking for, we probably have at least two books on that topic and can get the one you are looking for.
And we’re all readers, whether it be children’s books or business books, every single person here reads a ton and is quite vocal about their choices. We have customers just come in for conversation, which is exactly what we want our community to do. It’s about buying books, yes, but it is also about making our store a habit for our customers.
What, if any, new things are you doing to stay competitive during these tough times and to serve the needs of your customers?
Our customers, like any bookstore’s, are key. We have really upped the number of “Lemuria Books To Go” events we have, which is to say, we will take books anywhere that a group needs them and sell the books for the customers. I think the best part about this program is that the booksellers that take the books stick around and become part of the event. We talk with the group and Lemuria becomes more than a business selling books, we become some of the many people attending the event. It’s a really cool thing to see.
The kid’s store has also been expanding the number and types of events we have. We invite schools to our store for special storytimes, run promotions to help schools raise money and books for summer reading, and we now have three book clubs for middle school and high school students.
What kinds of creative events or storytime events have you done?
My favorite event that we have held was the Magic Tree House Passport to Adventure. We worked with the community to host this event at The Cedars, one of the oldest houses in the area. We used the back porch as a stage and all the kids and parents brought their blankets to enjoy the show. The Jackson Zoo got involved and brought a couple of animals and the Mississippi Children’s Museum brought their Imagination Playground, which is this amazing “build your own” playground. We encouraged kids to come early, grab a snack and a book and just spend the afternoon with us. We had over 200 kids plus parents and everyone there had a blast. We are hoping to do something similar for our Snoozapalooza (celebrating Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book).
What books have you made bestsellers at your store because the staff got behind them?
Recently, The Emerald Atlas is one I cannot keep in stock. John Stephens’ fantasy book really resonated with us and it’s become a go-to adventure book for us. I also have one employee who has been working to sell 1000 copies of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo and just this Christmas reached her goal.
What are your favorite titles out this summer?
It just came out, but I am in love with The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce. I get so excited when I can put that book in someone’s hands. On the YA side, I love Timepiece by Myra McEntire. She has really stepped her Hourglass series up a level with this one!