Community partner: Labyrinth Books

To extend our community outreach, the library partners with many of the municipal, non-profit, and business organizations that make Princeton such an extraordinary town. This month, Labyrinth Books is in the spotlight.

Although it might seem that a library and bookstore would be at odds with one another, this is not the case at all. The library and Labyrinth Books have a shared mission of promoting literacy, providing access to information and bringing our community the chance to experience the diversity of voices, peoples and things in the world through books.

In 2018, the library had 30 author events which were made possible by the support of Labyrinth Books which ensures that the author’s books are ordered and that a bookseller is present to sell them. Given that book sales are an integral part of author tours, having a partner like Labyrinth allows us to bring authors to Princeton who might not otherwise come. In addition, we collaborated last year on 14 Library Live at Labyrinth events. Library Live at Labyrinth, a series of visits by acclaimed authors that take place at the bookstore, has long been a cornerstone of our partnership with Labyrinth.

The library also collaborates with Labyrinth Books on other events, like the Disco Dance Party that tied in with last year’s summer reading theme.

Recently, we reached out to owner Dorothea von Moltke to learn more about Labyrinth Books.

How long has Labyrinth Books been in Princeton, and what led you to open the book store?

We opened in November of 2007. At the time, we had a similar bookstore on the Upper West Side near Columbia and a much smaller one at Yale in New Haven. Princeton University approached us and asked if we would consider opening here when the University Co-op wanted to stop selling books and the (much-loved) independent that was here, Micawber, was looking to close.

Why do you like partnering with the library?

So many reasons. As so often, maybe it starts with the people — over the years, we have built strong relationships rooted in a shared commitment to the world of books and reading, in trust, and in affection. I feel like we have found out together how and where we complement each other in our events programming since we have somewhat different constituencies, and how and where we can partner because there is overlap but each of us still brings something different. That’s the whole point of the Library Live at Labyrinth and/or Labyrinth Live at the Library series. There’s a really nice mix in this of systematic planning on the one hand and spontaneous, impromptu collaboration on the other. We run things by each other half-baked and develop or dismiss ideas as the case may be — how is that not an ideal collaboration?

What is something that you do that people might not know about?

We have a long-standing investment in helping to build libraries in New Jersey prisons. Periodically, we invite customers to join in that effort through book drives and those have always been welcomed by this community. We’re also about to relaunch our carbon offset program, which has gone too quiet over the years. It lets our customers pay a few cents extra for a book, which Labyrinth matches, and this is calculated to offset the carbon footprint of the books traveling from the publisher to the store and on to the customers’ shelves. That money goes to reforestation and renewable energies through our carbon offset partner.

Is there an event or series that you are particularly excited about at the moment?

I’m really looking forward to our next Library Live at Labyrinth event: Pico Iyer is currently visiting professor at Princeton, so we partnered both with the Library and the Humanities Council to invite him to Labyrinth to read from and discuss his new book, “Autumn Light.” Two days later, Elaine Pagels and Wallace Best will talk about Pagels’ recent memoir, “Why Religion? A Personal Story,” which will, I’m sure, also be great. And only recently we added an event with Paul Krugman and May Reinhardt for April 30th. May is the widow of Uwe Reinhardt, whose book on the economic and ethical costs of American health care is coming out posthumously, so this will be both a tribute and, I think, a very timely conversation.

These are just some of the reasons why we think Labyrinth Books is so wonderful. For more, check out this blog which rates them the best in the country.

Janie Hermann, Adult Programming Manager also contributed to this post.

Photo credit Christopher Wang-Iverson

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