Growing up in Selinsgrove I can remember taking countless trips to the Susquehanna Valley Mall. It was never a large scale mall, but it had the common stores that people from towns surrounding Snyder County, Pennsylvania desired to shop at. Over the years it has seemed to taken a turn for the worse. Walking around this mall now, there appears to be more empty spaces and “everything must go” signs than thriving stores. However, one shop that seems to be pulling in customers is the Books-A-Million bookstore, better known as BAM. After walking around this bookstore and the surrounding neighborhood stores, it was quite evident that the I saw more people in BAM than in the rest of the mall. I couldn’t help but to think that a thriving bookstore in a mall so empty could be thought of as a diamond in the rough.
The Books-A-Million bookstore has many small town bookstore “competitors” in the surrounding towns such as Selinsgrove, Sunbury, Lewisburg and Danville. However, I do not know that I would say the small quaint bookstores are necessarily competing with Books-A-Million. I say this because I feel that the quaint independent bookstores are drawing in a different crowd than the corporate bookstore of BAM. Although the mall is not drawing in many people, I feel they are still drawing in people that chose to come to the mall to shop for other items. BAM is surrounded by a pizza shop, a craft store, a phone store and a clothing store. So, I feel that people that are in the mall for these stores tend to be drawn into BAM. As far as the quaint town independent bookstores, I feel that people shopping there, go to that bookstore for the intent of relaxing at an inviting place, and to shop for books. Overall, I feel that the “neighborhood” or the surroundings of BAM contribute to their consumer type, making it not comparable to small town bookstores.
When thinking about Books-A-Million as a place, I feel that it is not the welcoming and inviting environment that book connoisseurs are looking for. Tim Cresswell States, “but place is also a way of seeing, knowing and understanding the world.” (11) Going off place as Cresswell explains it, I feel that BAM fails to create a space and environment that welcomes a new viewpoint of the world. The bright fluorescent lighting, and the trinkets filling the space create more of an unwelcoming space.
Though Books-A-Million gets consumers from many surrounding towns, many customers come from the town of its location, Selinsgrove, PA. Selinsgrove population of 5,810 people is 89.9% white. Even through there are other cultures that make up Selinsgrove’s population it is safe to say that the majority of customers shopping at Books-A-Million share a common interest in American literature.
While driving to the mall you can catch a glimpse of the more populated surrounding areas. There are multiple restaurants to eat at, places to stay, and places to get coffee. This part of Selinsgrove differs from the small town that is in the heart of Selinsgrove. Here you can find more hustle and bustle because of the mall setting on the side of route 11 and 15. The Susquehanna Valley Mall surroundings are what I believe is keeping what is left of the mall afloat. On occasion you can find local business and communities of people gathering together to host fairs and gatherings within the mall. This creates slightly more business for the shops left in the mall. As for BAM, the lone store thriving in the mall, these fairs and people driving through town create even better business for them. Overall, BAM seems to be doing the best in the mall, but their location gives them a feeling of displacement.
Cresswell talks about place as “place of memory.” (5) For me and for many other Selinsgrove natives the Susquehanna Valley mall will be a memory. We will remember the driving stores as a place where people gathered and connected with another. My hope for Books-A-Million, is that it will not have to remain a memory for those who visit, and continually visit. I hope that though the bookstore appears to be hindered by its location, that it can thrive and continue to draw in customers. As for me and the costumers that were there along with me, BAM was a place of gathering.
Cresswell, Tim, Place: A Short Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub, 2004.
Google Maps: Susquehanna Valley Mall
BAM Storefront – https://www.yelp.com/biz/books-a-million-selinsgrove
Selinsgrove Data – https://datausa.io/profile/geo/selinsgrove-pa/#