In 2015, Women and Children First renovated their store, which created an open and welcoming environment, easy for customers to walk around and navigate through. Looking at the interactive image, and the images included, we will be able to virtually navigate the store, and see for ourselves how the store is set up, and what exactly that means for the store.
As we virtually walk up to the front door of the Women and Children First Bookstore, we can already start to see some of the beautifully lined shelves, organized tables and sales counter through the glass. Even in just these few glances of the interior of the bookstore, it is already clear that the inside of the bookstore is purposefully organized to support exactly what their name suggests–women and children, first. The inside of the store harbors big open spaces as well, which is aesthetically pleasing from the outside, but will prove to serve a purpose as we walk inside. Every book in Women and Children First is supporting their all inclusive, feminist message–that is, to support and empower women, children, and the LGBTQ community and welcome any and all people into the safe space of their store. Their 30,000 books that are written either for or about women, their extensive collection of gay and lesbian fiction and non-fiction, and their focus on children can be seen as we walk through the store (Women and Children First Website). Continuing this walk around the store and taking in the open spaces, the clear “coves” of book genres, the community areas, and the children’s section, we can see how all of these sections work together to make sure that this all inclusive (and feminist) message becomes evident in the design of the inside of the store.
Walking in through the front door, and looking immediately to the right, there is a “new and noteworthy” section. It is a table display right by the window immediately as people walk in, so it is the first thing they will see. As they look at the new and noteworthy section, it is all set up at eye level, and is set up on a table that is easy to read and see.
Each of the main sections that line the right wall immediately after this section have smaller hand-painted signs around them to indicate which type of books are in those shelves, or displays. These sub-sections are all around the store, and include: essays and writing, fiction, new non-fiction, staff picks, events and book groups, etc. If you hover your mouse over the first black and white dot on the first Floor Plan interactive picture, you can start to see how these u-shaped coves work with books in them, and how they offer a small escape. They are all set up with tall bookshelves, which offer a large variety of each kind of book in each sub-section. Essays and writing, and the fiction section, come first on the right hand side. These u-shaped coves are set up to give people a place to stand and read the books without being in the way of other customers walking around the store. It allows them to feel like they are entirely welcomed, and unrushed, while they get a chance to browse. These coves give the customers a chance to browse through these books. In the essays and writings section, Tina Fey’s Bossypants can be clearly seen on the shelves. This is an example of a powerful woman who is being displayed on their shelves, and while she is using humor in her message, she is still using her
voice to empower other women. It’s no wonder they’re carrying her books in the store! The next black and white dot offers a close view of the fiction section, which really allows us to look at the hand-painted signs, as does this essays and writing picture. These hand-painted signs remind the consumer that they are in an independent bookstore, and can ultimately serve as part of the welcoming atmosphere since hand-made touches make the atmosphere seem much more personable.
The third black and white dot offers a view of the middle of the bookstore. Once leaving these coves, the events and book groups section is right in the middle of the store. Since it is placed here, it is very hard to miss and stands in the middle of the busiest part of the store. This placement shows its importance to the store, since book groups and events are such a large part of what Women and Children First stand for, and try to offer for their community. The events often time promote the writers from the community, or some of the women writers they carry on their own shelves.
In the last sections of the “coves” there are fiction books, and then continuing into the back of the store, there is an LGBTQ and Women’s Studies section. Right next to this section, is the extensive Children’s section, complete with a reading community area set up in front of it. These two sections are coupled together at the back of the store to serve as the main area, and focus, of the store. These independent bookstores often have a “willingness to risk alienating other book[s]…in order to promote their collective interests” which then in turn promotes the “development of a collective identity” within the bookstore itself (Miller 191). These two sections coupled together essentially tell the entire story of the mission or message of the bookstore. Women and Children First wants to do exactly that—put women and children, first. The Women’s Studies section borders the large children’s section, which can be seen in the fourth black and white dot.
Moving to the fifth black and white dot on the top wall of the floor plan, we can see the Community and Event space where many of the events are held. In this picture, there is a table set up, but that space can also host a bunch of chairs instead if there is guest speaker coming, like the picture to the immediate left shows. This section is the second biggest section of the store, and this alone indicates its importance to the message of the store since there are always inspiring women coming in to speak and read their work.
Bookstores frequently offer community spaces now, since they allow a chance for the consumer to get involved and become active in the bookstore experience itself. It’s no wonder there was such an emphasis to create this large community space during the remodel. Not only that, but consumers often times look for “consumption as an arena that, in contrast to so much else in life, is painless and fun to navigate” (Miller 222). Women and Children First understands that we want our trips to the bookstore to be fun, and to be easy, which explains the open spaces and “coves” that were added in the remodel as well. The shape and layout of these displays are easy to navigate, which makes the experience more fun for us, as the costumers. Not only that, but these open areas, and these event areas, cultivate the welcoming and open environment and create the “safe space” that is the bookstore itself. Also, the book content itself (like the LGBTQ section, and the prominent women authors) highlight the inclusiveness of the store for any and all people, and promotes their feminist message through their support of these books by and about women, the homosexual community, and children.
The sales counter is the last black and white dot, and is again in the middle of the store. This is one of the last things we would see as we exited the store, but not without first having a lively conversation with the employees working at the sales counter. Having a bubbly sales person as the last thing we see on the way out would even further seal this view of the bookstore as
an inclusive environment, that is extremely welcoming. After all, even after taking a virtual tour, these certain themes around the story can start to be seen, and the narrative of the store and the message of the store can be understood already. There is a small cards section right next to the sales counter, and is one of the only sections without books in it. Being close to the exit, it is the very last thing we would see, but is also not in a space in the store that highlights its importance, suggesting that it is not of much importance in the store itself. There is even a staff picks section in one corner of the store, which is complete with small hand-written notes about each of the books. This section again reminds the customer of the time and energy the staff put in to making the bookstore a special place, and is a refreshing experience compared to an experience that you would have at a chain bookstore.
Ultimately, Women and Children First has succeeded in doing just that given the layout of their store after the remodel. I can’t wait to get to experience the atmosphere first hand!
Courtesy of Lynn Mooney (former owner): Concept Sketch: Community Area, Concept Sketch: View From Front Door, Floor Plan, Photo of Children’s section, Photo of First “Cove,” Photo of Sales Counter
Google Maps: Women and Children First front door.
Women and Children First Facebook Page: Community Space Table, Essays and Writing Sign, Events and Book Groups Display, Fiction Sign, Jeanette Winterson, Staff Picks Corner, Young Girl Sitting on Floor.
Women and Children First Website: http://www.womenandchildrenfirst.com/wcf-history-and-purpose
Miller, Laura. Reluctant Capitalists. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007. Print.