After 33 years of business, Left Hand Books in Boulder is closing. A quick scan of its web site should convince that this is no ordinary bookstore. Calling itself a “volunteer collective”, here is how the web site describes the store:
“The Left Hand Book Collective is an all-volunteer, not-for-profit, nonsectarian bookstore, founded in Boulder in 1979. We sell progressive and multicultural periodicals, t-shirts, buttons, and bumper stickers (among other things)…..Left Hand Books is collectively run, decisions being made at monthly meetings. All volunteers are invited. We are always seeking new volunteers. If you would like to know more, come by the store or call. Our scheduled store hours are subject to volunteer availability.”
Sadly, the utopian Barnes-and-Noble-meets-the-kibbutz is closing due to its “inability to generate enough income to continue running the store (due to declining general sales and a marked loss of revenue from course book sales), and to burn-out on the part of some of us who have been doing the managerial work required to run the store.”
The closing statement from the store also laments the lack of volunteers:
“Left Hand depends on volunteers to keep running. We have a a serious shortage of volunteers at the store. The requirements are not onerous: agree with the principles of unity of the store, go though a training session of about one hour, make a commitment to volunteer for at least six months, and do at least two (3 or 4 hour) shifts per month. Besides staffing the store, the amount of your involvement is up to you: all volunteers are encouraged to “adopt a section” and be responsible for ensuring that the books in that section are kept in proper order. In addition, you can learn how to receive shipments, prepare purchase orders, accept and process customer special orders, and many other jobs that are involved in keeping a bookstore running.”
It’s what happens when the idyllic utopia is confronted by harsh facts of life – people work to be paid, and stores have to make money to stay in business.