15 & Under the Full Story: Bookmarks

What is the background of Bookmarks and how long have you been operating?  

Bookmarks started 15 years ago as a literary non-profit. In the beginning it was a very small grassroots effort. It was started by the Junior League in Winston-Salem, and has since grown into a 501(c)(3) non-profit. We have brought on paid staff members over the years, and the bookstore opened in July 2017 in Downtown Winston-Salem to serve as a home base for the non-profit. We have a bunch of offices in the back, and this beautiful bookstore in the front. Since it is a non-profit bookstore, there is not an owner that profits off of book sales here. We have six full time employees including an Executive Director and Director of Operations. Every time you buy your books at Bookmarks you are supporting our non-profit initiatives!  

What has being a part of the Winston-Salem community been like for Bookmarks?

It has been really good! I just went full time in January of this year. I started working here in May of 2018. We are lucky to have this wonderful core group of supporters and volunteers. I’ve been getting to work really closely with the volunteers, and they truly believe in what we are doing. I find that most people that know we are here and know what we are doing are very interested and want to support whether it be by shopping here, donating, or volunteering. I think we are still working on really widening our outreach efforts, and really reaching all corners of Winston-Salem and beyond.  

Do you have a mission if so what is it?

Bookmarks works to ignite the love of reading by connecting readers with books and authors. We do this through our non-profit initiatives. We have an “Authors in Schools” program that connects local students with authors. We also have a “Book Build” program that is putting 25,000 brand new books into Winston-Salem / Forsyth County schools by fall of 2020. The average book in a public school media center is 30-40 years old. In those books you do not see a lot of diversity in the characters or the story lines. That is really the driving force behind “Book Build.” We have this wonderful group of volunteers, and we have hired a small staff to help process all of these books. When we give them to the schools it is a true donation. We make sure to process the books before giving them to each school to avoid putting any more work on Media Coordinators who already have a lot to do. When we are done, the books go into the school’s library and become available to students so they have access to more inclusive books.

What is the most fun thing to do in Winston-Salem? 

Winston-Salem is really on the come up right now! I grew up here and it has been great to see this happen. Honestly I love this bookstore! I’m glad I work in the office in the back because every time I come out into the bookstore I see 10 or more books I need to buy. I also love a/perture cinema. It is the same feeling there as it is here where you tend to feel like you are in a different or bigger city. Like Bookmarks, it is a very inspiring place to visit. I love their curated list of films that they show there! We also love to go down to Incendiary and Cugino Forno to hang out. Innovation Quarter is great to explore! 

Your personal favorite thing about Bookmarks? 

I came here not knowing the full story of Bookmarks and the non-profit aspect of it, but I walked into the bookstore and I fell in love with the book selections. I saw so many books I wanted to read. I loved the subject matter and the diversity of topics and authors. They were having a social justice story time and I thought it was so cool, and never wanted to leave! I think Book Build is so cool and important. I love that it is a woman run organization! Our bookstore manager, our director of operation, and our executive director are all really hard working wonderful people. It is a great place to be!        

 If Bookmarks was a superhero what powers would it have?

I would say lighting up a kids face! That is not really a superpower, but making people have that Christmas morning feeling. We get to see that with some of the authors we present and at some of the events that we have. You can see it with people young, old, and in between! That sense of wonder and imagination that happens when someone really connects with a book or an author.    

 Anything else you would like Wake Community/Community at Large to know? 

The festival is coming up! We have an annual book festival that is the largest in the Carolinas! We have over 50 authors and illustrators that are coming to Winston-Salem September 5-8th. We encourage everyone to come. We have a great lineup of Authors, panel discussions, workshops, and events for kids and adults and everybody in between. We also have an app! If you search Bookmarks Festival on google play or in the app store you will find it. We are updating it now with all of this years festival information like Authors, schedule, and map. Everything you need!