I had some time to kill in Enfield, CT the other night. Most unfortunate. Anybody who knows me knows that my dislike of Connecticut knows no bounds. So anyways I had about an hour and a half, so I headed to the only place I could think of that I might enjoy myself, Barnes & Noble.
Up until now the only B&N I’ve ever been to is the one in Holyoke, MA, which is the closest one to my house, and the one where my writing group is held. Now that one is huge. It has two floors and a large Starbucks cafe and computers to search for store items and a lot of open spaces with tables and chairs and benches and about a dozen or so big cushioned armed chairs scattered throughout the store. There is even a new Lego play table area for the children. There is a whole separate room just for movies and music and another dedicated just to children’s books. Free wi-fi goes without saying. And with large windows, high ceilings and bookshelves low enough that I can, at 5’6″, see over the tops of most of them, the store is bright, airy and open. It’s a very pleasant, comfortable place to spend time. Except when there is alot of screaming kids throwing Legos.
The Enfield store, on the other hand, blows big ol’ chunks.
First of all its only one floor. And that one floor is only about three-quarters of the size of one floor of the store in Holyoke. It’s like a claustrophobic rat maze. The shelves tower over head and criss cross in all different directions so you can’t see more than a few feet in any direction from the second you walk in the store. The passageways between shelves are so narrow it feels like they are closing in on you, like the trash compactor in Star Wars, slowly crushing the life out of you. There are no computers. There are no chairs other than the half-dozen or so tiny cafe tables at the little Starbucks crammed in the corner. I didn’t even bother checking to see if they had wi-fi. I would assume they did, I think all B&Ns do. But really, whats the point if you can’t sit and relax and enjoy using it. And then to get to the registers, you have to squeeze thru a narrow opening between a shelf and a counter, which is blocked by a sign instructing you to “enter here” for check-out.
So to summarize-Holyoke store: GREAT, Enfield store: SUCKS
I’ve been to quite a few book stores in my life. Some good, some bad. This was definitely not one of the better ones. I also wasnt very fond of the Borders that used to be at the Holyoke Mall, altho it was better than the B&N in Enfield. I have a few favorite places to buy books besides the B&N in Holyoke. I like The Odyssey in South Hadley and Raven Used Books in Northampton. When I used to live in Ware I went to a used book store called The Book Bear in West Brookfield. And never underestimate what you can find in the book section of your local Thrift Store. I have dozens of books that I bought at the Salvation Army. And the Salvation Army at least has comfortable chairs and couches to sit on while you look over your books. Which is more than I can say for the B&N in Enfield.
Its funny, when I was growing up, I had tons of books, but I don’t remember for the life of me where I shopped for them. I remember spending a lot of time at the library and having a lot of library books. But I don’t remember where I bought the books I owned. I only recall the occasional purchase at discount stores or pharmacies as a teenager. Mostly cheap paperback versions of Stephen King or other horror/suspense novels. But as for the majority of my childhood collection, I have no idea. Obviously my parents bought a lot of them for me, but where? I don’t remember ever seeing or going to an actual bookstore as a child. Hm.