The Earnest Street of D.J. Ernst Books
Situated between a hair dresser’s and a BJ’s is a small independent bookstore located at 27 N Market Street in Selinsgrove. D.J. Ernst Books has been selling used and rare books for many years. In a town that has everything else, from restraunts to bakeries, to clothing and tattoo shops, a bookstore fills a niche. The books on Pennsylvania history are just one of the store’s selling points. While at first Selinsgrove appears to be a traditional, quiet town, there’s more to it than that. Susquehanna University is located a mere four minutes away by car, meaning that the town is usually populated by not only locales, but young students as well. Many of these students end up buying reading material at D.J. Ernst Books.
However, D.J. Ernst isn’t the only literary establishment in town. The Rudy Gelnett Memorial Library is a minute away and it has new innovations such as ebooks, as well as events like evening book discussions and children’s story times. The town library, possibly the only competition for D.J. Ernst Books, acts as more of a community center for everyone. D.J. Ernst Books is a comfy, homey spot for bookworms to interact.
The featured displays out front have three main focuses: genealogy, classic literature, and Agatha Christie. None of these picks are a surprise given that Selinsgrove is a town steeped in history, and also mystery books are very popular right now, especially Christie. The genealogy books certainly account for the familial ties many residents have to Selinsgrove. The classic novels appeal to both the older and younger residents in town. The college students find used copies of classic novels that they need for literature classes, and the adults find some of their old favorite books.
While Selinsgrove does include a literary culture, it’s a very narrow one. According to Data USA, the town is made up of mainly white residents, with only 10% being of different ethnic backgrounds. From the chart indicated, you can see that the white population in town makes up almost the entire amount of people residing in the area. So is there a diverse literary culture in Selinsgrove? Not really. However, that doesn’t mean that D.J. Ernst isn’t a bookstore for everyone. Residents of every age and cultural background visit the bookstore whenever it’s open. Despite all the classic literature on the shelves, there are hidden gems of every genre tucked away in the shop. There’s a sign outside of the shop that I only just noticed today. It reads: all different, all equal, all welcome.
As I walk through town, I notice the unique community that the bookstore shares a block with. Mainly there are different restaurants to choose from. There’s everything from a Subway, to a cafe, and then a pizza shop. There’s also a tavern, a banking institution, a boutique, and a bakery. There’s something for everyone in town. Another aspect to admire is the architecture. There’s a quaint, old brick building look to Selinsgrove. Most of the buildings are traditional, businesses that are built into old homes and apartments. Some, such as the Pink Pin Up Resale Boutique across from D.J. Ernst Books, are built with dramatic Greek columns. Mixed in with the traditional buildings are new businesses in modern styles. One of these is the Nouveau Ink. piercing store at the edge of the street. Unlike the other tall, colorful brick structures, Nouveau Ink. is a white shop with a neon sign to welcome customers. These two very different businesses merge the old and new living style in Selinsgrove.
If there’s one thing you see at D.J. Ernst Books, it’s the concept of “place.” As Tim Cresswell notes in his writings on place, there’s “a new kind of diversity” forming everywhere, and that’s what’s happening in Selinsgrove (54). Selinsgrove is slowly but surely adding more diverse architecture, as it embraces some modern businesses. While Selinsgrove can’t be defined as “diverse” now, change is beginning to integrate itself into the once traditional town. Cresswell also speaks to the importance of adaptation, that “places are constantly having to adapt to conditions” (58). With more young people arriving in Selinsgrove everyday, the changes in the town are already taking place. The new businesses, architecture and people are creating a modern town soon to be diversified. At the center of it all is a little bookstore that remains earnest.
Cresswell, Tim. Place: A Short Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub, 2004. Print.
Photos by Monet Polny