Shelf Indulgence is a local used bookstore located in the Sarasota area, known for its cozy study space, wonderful cafe, amazing staff and wide selection of used books. However, Shelf Indulgence (affectionately nicknamed Shelf) has found yet another way to set themselves apart from other bookstores in the Sarasota-Bradenton area: they have announced their purchase of a bus that will be used as a mobile book fair of banned books.
Co-owner Nichole “Nikki” Snyder spoke to the Catalyst via email to provide insight on this project. According to Snyder, the idea of a book bus has been in the back of the owners’ minds since the opening of Shelf.
“We wanted a way to connect with more readers in the community beyond our brick and mortar location, as well as participate in off-site events,” Snyder stated. The owners have spent the past few years conducting extensive research regarding the cost of this project: the purchase of a bus, renovations and remodeling.
Fate seemed to take its toll as Snyder was scrolling through Facebook when she stumbled upon a couple from Ohio selling a bus they had already renovated for their own book mobile. Snyder flew to Ohio and fell in love with the automobile.
The bus has interior shelving, comfortable seats and even an observation deck on the roof that can be accessed through the emergency exit hatch. The only thing the bus needs is a new paint job: instead of yellow, this bus will be purple. Snyder explains that this is to set the bus apart from others: “It’s really hard to ignore a 40-foot-long purple bus!”
The owners of Shelf originally drew inspiration from the scholastic book fairs they attended when they were kids. They wanted to ignite that spark and recreate the excitement that book fairs created in children for adults. However, that original idea has evolved due to recent events that have taken place in Sarasota-Manatee schools. Shelf has decided to focus on spreading awareness for book banning and censorship. The bus will make these books accessible to its customers.
“We believe that everyone should have the freedom to read what they choose and that access to knowledge and ideas should not be restricted,” Snyder explained. “The majority of the books on the most banned and challenged lists [40%] feature LGBTQ+ themes and characters and another 40% feature characters of color. These stories are important, and if we can help get them into the hands of readers, then we have to.”
Although most of the renovations and remodeling for the bus have already been completed, the bus still needs a new paint job. Shelf is relying on generous donations from the community while also organizing fundraising events for the project. Donations can be provided through Kickstarter, so backers can receive gifts for their contributions. Shelf also recently organized a raffle during the celebration of the store’s sixth birthday. The money collected in this raffle will be used towards the bus.
Snyder states that the response from the community has been supportive, especially from their regular customers. However, Snyder acknowledges that they have received backlash from those who are less supportive of the idea: these individuals have made their opinions known via social media or by tagging well-known government officials.
“But, for every negative interaction there have been countless positive ones from students, parents and educators who support our project,” Synder said. “I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention our amazing staff who have wholeheartedly thrown themselves and their support behind this project. They have worked so hard to help us make this bus dream a reality, and I love them so much.”