Retreat inside the enchanted world of Library Bookstore, 169 W. Nine Mile, to satiate your curious mind. Friendly bells jingle a welcome as you push open the door to a space surrounded by wooden shelves on walls packed thick, full of books – real books. Thousands of books create insulation from the noise and bustle of the city outside, allowing for classical music to waft gently through a maze of colors and titles.
Despite the rising popularity of electronic reading gadgets, owner of Library Bookstore, Martha Sempliner, said there are a lot of people who want a real book in their hand. “I get a fair amount of people, whether they’re 20 or 60, who come in and say ‘I bought the Kindle, but I only use it when I go on vacation. I want the feel of a book. I like how books smell’,” said Sempliner.
Sempliner purchased the used bookstore, located between Java Hutt and Naka in the heart of Downtown Ferndale, in the mid 1980s. She attributes the store’s longevity to luck and loyal customers. “We’ve been here for a long time. We’ve had people who came in here when they were 4 and now they’re 24. They go away and they come back to the good old bookstore that they know and love,” she said. What’s the draw? It’s all there: religion, philosophy, travel, politics, music, mythology, the classics, and certainly science fiction. From Terry Pratchett to Dune, Library Bookstore offers a rather large science fiction selection – and an in house science fiction expert to boot! “Denny is a sci-fi expert. He’s read science fiction since he was a kid, so he’s a great recommender,” said Sempliner, regarding her business partner Denny Morland, who you’ll often find reading behind the register.
Morland, who’s been with the store for more than three decades, also appre- ciates the value of real books and recalls some rather unique artifacts that have graced Library with their presence. “We’ve had some very rare things in the store. We had a copy of Kerouac’s first book, The Town and The City, which is really hard to find. It was a first edition, probably worth about $1000,” he said (and somebody bought it!). “At one point we had something signed by Babe Ruth, other small paperbacks that are hard to find…” he added.
Unique paperbacks, young adult novels, and books for children are abundant at Library Bookstore. “We have a lot more kids’ books now. There’s really been a resurgence of quality in stories and in illustrators. There is a lot more out there and they’re also much more conscious,” said Sempliner. If you’re a teacher and need to stock up on kids’ books or YA novels for the classroom, LB might have what you’re looking for. Just ask Denny. “We get teachers coming in looking for multiple copies of Great Gatsby and other classics. We have a storeroom where we keep duplicates. There are teachers who come and they want 20 copies of something and sometimes we’ll have that many. People are amazed at how many books we actually have in the store,” said Morland.
Sempliner said she has a general knowledge of a fairly wide array of books, but couldn’t name a favorite. “People ask me all the time what my favorite book is, but I read the paper a lot. I try to keep up with the news. Right now it’s the newspaper. I’ve read a fair amount in my life, but these days I feel like I need to know what’s going on, because the world is so strange,” she said.
Sempliner praised Ferndale for being a community of learners who want to stay informed on news and current events. “I think there are a lot of people here who want to know things. They’re curious about the world and they want to learn. That’s based on this space here. A lot of people around here are in school or have gone to school or have gone back to school and I guess we’re kind of a peaceful place for people to come in to. I don’t think I please everybody. I’m sure that’s the case. But you do the best you can,” said Sempliner.
Walk, bike, or drive on over, grab your treasure off the shelf, open it and smell the real thing. You can’t find Library Bookstore books online, Sempliner doesn’t sell there and she doesn’t have email. Call the store at 248-545-4300 with inquiries.
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