Arlington, VA

Amanda Quain, social media manager for Arlington bookstore One More Page books, said the store has “the best problem” right now and one many other struggling retail locations would love to have: they are overwhelmed with orders.

The independent book store at 2200 N. Westmoreland Street in East Falls Church has been closed to public browsing since the pandemic started, but inside Quain said the shop is buzzing with staff putting together boxes and taking phone calls from customers.

While book stores nationwide are struggling, Quain said the pandemic has pushed the shop into an online shopping focus that’s changed how the business operates.

“We’re not planning on opening anytime soon,” Quain said. “We’re too small to do both online orders and letting people browse. We’ve had to get rid of a lot of fixtures and shelves that make shop feel cozy. Don’t want people to linger in the post-pandemic world. Sitting and staying a while have to go away. We hope increased online business goes to in-store after, but we also hope to maintain online sales.”

The store recently celebrated 10,000 orders.

Those online sales have created a new community around the bookstore that tries to replicate the experience of browsing and getting a recommendation, though Quain said the staff are busier than ever because that takes longer when not done in-person.

“A lot of it’s easier to do in-store, like recommending books, but that takes longer when that’s email or phone call,” Quain said. “We’re having the best problem. We’re very overwhelmed with orders and don’t have the staff to support it.”

Quain said One More Page also did a website redesign a year ago, which put the store in a good position when the pandemic started and customers started seeking out local businesses to support while social distancing.

The big sales come in waves, Quain said, and are often driven by trends.

“With a lot of the talk about antiracism and books by black authors there been a lot of those [sold],” Quain said. “Those are books like How to Be an Anti-Racist. We’ve been steadily increasing, but that was the biggest jump.”

Quain said other big-sellers have been Me and White Supremacy, Just Mercy, and Jubilee.

The pandemic has also driven the One More Page community to other products, like puzzles.

“Whenever we have puzzles on the website, those go pretty fast,” Quain said. “About a month ago we had one each of our puzzles and we auctioned them off. It was a steady price, whoever claimed it first got it. We were lucky, there no fighting, everyone was chill.”

Early on in the pandemic, Quain said the big push was for children’s books and workbooks. That intensified even more as summer vacation started. Quain said a lot of sales were driven by the Washington Post Summer Book Club for children.

“In the before-times, we would try to predict trends,” Quain said. “We don’t have as much time to do that now. It’s been more reactive than we like but it gives us a cool idea of what books people want. Some of them are books we’ve never heard of, or books we start stocking now.”

Quain said the big part of the book store’s survival has been flexibility, both for the store and trying to instill that in customers. There were frustrations early on, Quain said, when shipments that used to arrive overnight were taking a week or more to deliver.

That flexibility has also created some innovative new products at the store. One of the more popular, Quain said, is the One More Page surprise box. Customers pay $100 and answer extensive questions about their reading preferences, and staff put together a customized box based on recommendations.

Photo via One More Page Books/Facebook

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Arlington Public Library is hosting author Roxane Gay as part of its 2020 Arlington Reads spring series.

Gay’s collection of essays, “Bad Feminist,” was a New York Times best seller, and was named as one of the best books of the year by NPR. She has also written several other works, including the novel “Untamed State,” the collection of short stories “Difficult Women,” and her memoir “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body.”

Gay currently co-hosts a podcast named “Hear to Slay” with Tressie McMillan Cottom, “a podcast with an intersectional perspective on celebrity, culture, politics, art, life, love, and more,” the library website said. She is also a contributing op-ed writer for the New York Times.

The talk will take place on March 10 from 7-9 p.m. at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street).

Other authors set to talk at Central Library as part of the series — dubbed “Who Are We the People?” — include Laila Lalami, Rebecca Traister, Valeria Luiselli and Brooke Gladstone.

From the library’s website:

The spring series authors transcend genre, medium and subject to wrestle with our political and social moment and tackle complex questions of identity and belonging With humor, fervor and compassion, they explore what our duties and obligations are to each other, our nation and our world.

As these writers probe the nature of justice and equality today, they show us that, even with all our imperfections, we can move together to form a more perfect Union for a more equitable tomorrow. Arlington Reads asks us, “Who are We the People?” What will our answer be?

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Local bookstore One More Page (2200 N. Westmoreland Street) will be able to pay the bills after all, thanks to its auction last month.

“We received donations of wine, window washing service, and many other items,” said owner Eileen McGervey, of the items the store auctioned off. “It was really quite overwhelming.”

In total, the online auction raised $20,374.32, passing its goal of $20,000.

The highest bid item was an original cartoon by the late Richard Thompson, which was donated by his wife Amy Thompson — it sold for $1,111.50. The item the fetched the second highest bit was naming rights to a character in the the Wine Country mystery series by Ellen Crosby, which sold for $725.

McGervey described the auction as a “wonderful success” to ARLnow and said the money raised was enough to cover the vendors she wasn’t able to pay after the building owner raised her rent by 30 percent in July. The spike in rent was caused largely by changes to the county’s real estate valuation method for the type of condominium building that houses One More Page.

The building’s property tax liability more than doubled this year, even after an appeal that knocked $700,000 off the valuation.

Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey tells ARLnow he has been working with the parties involved to try to make sure One More Page could meet its obligations and stay in business.

“Shortly after this issue raised itself in the public eye, I spoke with the owner and we tried to see what we could do and what would be available,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey encouraged any small businesses affected by the real estate valuation change to contact Arlington Economic Development’s BizLaunch division.

Dorsey said he was “deeply sympathetic” to the bookstore’s plight, noting that the establishment is one of his family’s favorites. But he added that the valuation changes was necessary because “for years we were not taxing at the appropriate levels, which create larger issues of equity.”

In the meantime, McGervey said that the bookstore is looking into holding more events to help it stay afloat. She’s also started a Patreon membership program after would-be auction buyers said they were interested in supporting the bookstore that way.

“The whole experience has invigorated us and our customers to make sure we stay here,” McGervey said.

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From zoning to storefronts to its very name, Green Valley (formerly known, officially, as Nauck) is changing — so one Arlingtonian put together a book to remember the neighborhood as it exists today.

As We Are is a new book by Robin Stombler, vice-chair of the Four Mile Run Valley Initiative Working Group and a frequent voice of the neighborhood, collecting of photographs from 2015-2019 taken around Green Valley.

The book highlights a neighborhood on the eve of revitalization, Stombler says.

“After thumbing through a couple thousand photographs that I’d taken of Green Valley, I saw a theme emerge that I wanted to share,” Stombler said in an email.

Green Valley was a community founded by freed slaves, who settled there during and just after the Civil War. The area was initially known as Green Valley but at one point in the 1970s county officials began referring to the areas as Nauck, honoring a former Confederate soldier who purchased land there in the 1870s.

Now, the entire Four Mile Run area — which includes Green Valley — is being targeted for broad revitalization. It’s a plan that Stombler helped craft, but has also been openly very critical of.

Green Valley has a smart vision for the revitalization of this community that’s worth a listen,” Stombler said. “As one example, the creation of an arts and industry quarter along Four Mile Run Drive would refresh the area, make it an arts destination in Arlington, yet retain the needed light industry, employment opportunities, and cool vibe.”

Stombler said the neighborhood has always been a close-knit community. As it is revitalized, Stombler says she hopes the family bonds remain intact.

“The community has a vision for how the area may be revitalized,” Stombler said. “In the period these photographs were taken, Green Valley has spoken loudly with one voice about this vision. Slowly, very slowly, we are seeing some of our vision take shape. The photographs hint at this change.”

Barriers, like razor-edge wiring near a park, are prevalent throughout Stombler’s collection. Stombler cited the physical and social barriers as a recurring visual throughout the area and one of the main reasons she compiled the photographs into a book.

Despite some somber themes, Stombler said that the story of Green Valley’s residents is the story of joy, intellect, and perseverance in the face of these obstacles.

The book is scheduled to launch on Sunday, August 25, with a gallery of the photography at a house in Green Valley (2206 S. Monroe Street) from 4-6 p.m. Another exhibit is scheduled for Thursday (Aug. 29) from 7-9 p.m.

The book is available online for $47.

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(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) Arlington Public Library is experimenting with a new, faster check-out system for popular books in a bid to reduce wait times.

Starting this week, patrons will be able to snag some of the system’s most sought-after books from a “Grab and Go” display near their library’s main circulation desk. These displays will host extra copies of popular books at each library, which patrons can check out with no holds.

“Arlington Public Library routinely sees several titles receive over 500 holds in a given year and in any given month we see 30 titles with over a hundred holds. The Library considers 100 holds as the minimum indicator for a high in demand book,” said APL’s chief materials manager Peter Petruski.

“The new Grab & Go collection increases access to bestselling books and alleviates wait times, but it’s still just scratching the surface of meeting the demand for books in Arlington,” he said.

Digital and print books checked out through the new program cannot be renewed — and thus are not subject to APL’s new automatic renewal policy. Each item can be checked out for a maximum two weeks, and patrons can only check out two of the e-books at a time.

The most popular book right now is “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens, with 495 print holds, 585 e-books holds, and 257 e-audiobook holds. “Becoming” by Michelle Obama also has 97 print holds, 481 ebook holds, and 508 e-audiobook holds.

Library Director Diane Kresh told ARLnow that the Grab and Go project was an “ongoing initiative” that started with multiple copies of 18 print books and 132 digital titles. Staff plans to grow the collection by targeting the items with the most holds and longest wait times.

“Our book collections team adds ‘hot’ new titles as they become available and demand increases,” she said. “We already see a great success with 66% of print and 100% of the eCollection being checked out.”

APL pitched the project earlier this year when requesting a $300,000 collection budget bump after the county previously slashed library funding, causing the library system to cut its digital checkout system Hoopla.

As of today (Tuesday) all of the Grab and Go e-books and e-audiobooks were checked out, according to APL’s online system Overdrive. Library spokesman Henrik Sundqvist said when digital title are available, they will be advertised on the top of the web page or app.

Data via Arlington Public Library

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A local bookstore is holding an auction to raise money after the owner says rent increased by 30 percent this year due to property tax changes.

One More Page Books, located in the East Falls Church neighborhood at 2200 N. Westmoreland Street, is hosting a silent auction fundraiser from Friday, August 2 at 6:30 p.m. until Sunday, August 18 at 5 p.m. The bookstore is currently finalizing the item list, which currently ranges from artwork and chocolates, to bike tours and book manuscript consults.

Owner Eileen McGervey said she was excited for the auction, which kicks off with the store’s regularly-scheduled wine and cheese party Friday night. She told ARLnow that customers came up with the idea of the auction, which has since gathered items like handmade shawls and a dinner with media members who cover the Capitals.

The auction was arranged after McGervey said the landlord informed her last month that the real estate taxes for the building went up significantly. The end result? A 30 percent rent increase, applicable to the current year.

McGervey said that’s a challenge for the independent bookstore not only because it operates on small profit margins, but also, “unlike other businesses we don’t have the option of raising the prices because books come with prices on them.”

The tax hike was the result of the county changing the way it calculates the value of some commercial buildings, like the mixed-use commercial condo building One More Page inhabits. The change more than doubled the assessed value of One More Page’s space — and thus also its assessed taxes — even after it was lowered on appeal.

(That’s on top of the County Board approving a real estate tax hike which increased the amount owners pay by two cents for every $100 in assessed property.)

“Unfortunately, in the case of the condominium that houses One More Page, this meant an increase in the assessed value of the property from CY 2018 of $2,351,100.00 to a CY 2019 valuation of $5,591,100.00,” Board Chair Christian Dorsey wrote in a letter to McGervey, who had asked if the Board could offer any assistance to the bookstore.

Dorsey continued:

This is indeed a large jump in the assessed value of the building. The County is bound by the Constitution of Virginia and State Code to assess all real estate at fair market value, and this methodology provides a more accurate assessment of commercial condominium values than did the previous. This methodology took into consideration the actual income and expense data submitted by the owner of the property along with similar condominiums in Arlington.

While the owner chose not to appeal the assessment with the County’s Board of Equalization this year, the owner did file an administrative appeal, resulting in a $700,000 reduction in the CY 2019 assessment, to $4,907,500. With the assessment reduction, the total tax bill for the building in Calendar Year 2019 is $56,485.00, up from $26,228.67 in CY 2018.

One More Page has been able to cover the rent raise in the past month, but at the expense of paying some of its vendors. Asking for help covering these bills is awkward, McGervey said, but better than the alternative.

“You don’t want to just be gone one day and have people not know that you could have been there,” McGervey said.

She noted that she’s now exploring the idea of a membership program to cover future rent needs.

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Drivers may soon see an old school bus tooling down Wilson Blvd and delivering books, thanks to funding from an Arlington-based nonprofit.

Read Early and Daily (R.E.A.D.) recently received a $50,000 ‘A Community Thrives’ national grant from the Gannett Foundation. R.E.A.D. secured the grant by pitching a traveling book bus that would bring books to people in Arlington who have trouble accessing them.

R.E.A.D. founder Jennifer Sauter-Price said she was “over the moon” about the grant in a social media message to ARLnow.

“Our hope is the Book Bus will be a bookstore for all families,” she said. “Another component while we sell books is to educate customers about book deserts and the inequities of book ownership and how it affects school readiness.”

Sauter-Price got the idea of a book bus from a popular mobile toy shop she helped run as part of a lending library in Austin, Texas. She now wants to travel around Arlington with books that feature diverse characters and stories about acceptance. In total, she has distributed 1,100 free books to about 250 children in Arlington since starting the nonprofit last year.

“We are proud of the work R.E.A.D. has done to enhance the Arlington, Virginia community,” said Andy Yost, Gannett’s chief marketing officer.

“At Gannett, our mission is to connect and empower our readers to make a difference in the communities they are a part of,” Yost said. “Through A Community Thrives, we are further fueling our mission and purpose.”

A Community Thrives has raised more than $6.5 million since 2017 for projects benefiting communities nationwide.

R.E.A.D. currently distributes free children’s books to gathering places around Arlington, like Mr. Moore’s Barbershop on Lee Highway, where young readers are encouraged to talk about the book they’re reading while they get a haircut.

People also buy books directly from the nonprofit’s website, or sign up for monthly subscription book boxes, which Sauter-Price says help fund the books she gives away for free — a business model she hopes to continue with the bus, too.

Now Sauter-Price is hoping to buy a decommissioned school bus and transform it into a bookmobile.

“The most important thing is to make sure it’s waterproof and temperature controlled for the books,” she said. “Then to create a fun children’s bookstore vibe inside that will be engaging for kids. Then the not-fun stuff: insurance, gas, Wi-Fi, licenses. My hope after all this is we will have funds leftover for more books.”

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Sauter-Price

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Ballston Quarter could soon be home to a temporary pop-up library.

According to an Arlington County Board agenda item, the owner of Ballston Quarter mall and the Ballston Business Improvement District invited Arlington Public Library to create a temporary pop-up library in unoccupied retail space on the street level of the mall.

“The use of the newly renovated mall space is being offered to the County for one month at no cost,” the agenda item noted. “The county will be permitted to open a new pop-up library location within the mall for a period beginning on July 1 through August 2, 2019.”

Library services could include a small collection of books and audio-visual materials along with technology access. The library would be open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The space will be provided by mall management at no cost to the county, while the operation of the library will be paid from the library’s general operating funds.

This would not be the first pop-up library in retail space. In 2016, Arlington County opened a pop-up library in Crystal City Shops that has since been extended through 2019.

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Longtime Lee Highway business Mr. Moore’s Barber Shop is piloting a new program pairing kids coming in for haircuts with free books.

“We specifically chose Moore’s Barbershop because it is an Arlington institution,” said Jennifer Sauter-Price, who founded the nonprofit behind the program, Read Early And Daily. “Everyone knows about it, and he has customers for years and others who drive from far away for his services.”

The nonprofit began dropping off books at the barbershop earlier this month and lets kids pick out their favorite to take home. Sauter-Price says she handpicks books that showcase diversity and partners with organizations like First Book and Scholastic Literacy Partnerships, which buy copies for them.

“The goal is to give away as many books as possible,” said James Moore, who was interested in the idea of bringing books to barbershop to spark conversations and help teach kids communication skills.

He told ARLnow that for him it started with Dorothy Hamm, the civil rights activist who integrated Stratford Junior High School and for whom the School Board voted to re-name the school after last year. Moore says he was in the school band, which used to practice at Hamm’s house.

“When I go to practice she would always say, ‘What did you learn at school today?’ and I would say some generic answer, and she wouldn’t let me go until I told her what I learned at school,” Moore said. “So I do the same thing now.”

Moore asks kids to take the books home with them, and to give a kind of “oral book report” about what they read the next time they’re sitting in his chair.

Moore said that so far his favorite book was “Happy to be Nappy” by Bell Hooks.

“I was kind of offended at first,” said the barber. “And then I read the book and understood what it was about.”

Sauter-Price dropped off 21 books earlier this month at Mr. Moore’s. As of a week ago, kids had taken all but 11.

https://twitter.com/Mooresbarber/status/1131580096765190144?s=20

The shop has been a community fixture for good conversations since Moore’s father James Moore founded it in 1960 as the first integrated barber shop in Arlington.

When asked what his 86-year-old father thought of the new book program, James Moore, Jr. said his dad though it was “great.”

As for the future? Sauter-Price is planning to add more community bookshelves around town at a laundromat, the Arlington Clothesline, Mount Olivet Methodist Church, and the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

“One thought is to include a postcard with future books so families can let us know what they think by mailing back the postcard, but we are still working out those details,” said Sauter-Price.

“What will have to happen is the program will have to mature,” said Moore, who hopes to expand to books for teenagers and adults. As an avid history reader, he says he’d like to introduce more adults to books by Malcolm X and the Green Book.

A copy of the Green Book was perched on an empty chair when this reporter visited, and it sparked a conversation with several of the men waiting for haircuts who hadn’t heard of it before.

“In order to be a successful barber you have to be able to communicate with people, learn about people,” said Moore afterward.

Moore also serves as a captain at Fire Station 8 on Lee Highway and says he plans to retire next year. But when that happens, he says he’ll keep the barbershop going, and hopefully will continue the communications flowing.

“If everyone does one little thing, it makes a big impact,” he said.

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Over 25,000 used books, DVDs and CDs are set to be offered for sale at a sprawling book festival in Rosslyn on Thursday (April 25).

The Rosslyn Reads Book Festival is an annual fundraiser for Turning the Page, a non-profit that helps students receive educational resources. The festival is planned to be held in Rosslyn’s Central Place Plaza at 1800 N. Lynn Street.

Book prices range from $1 to $8. Attendees are also invited to bring their own used books to donate as well.

A series of events are also planned throughout the day, with children’s activities through most of the day and adult-focused activities in the evening.

  • 10 a.m. — Tunes & Dales, a family story time organized by the Arlington Public Library
  • 4 p.m. — Magic of Zain, a magic show for children
  • 4 p.m. — The bar opens
  • 5:30 p.m. — Discussion with Elaine Weiss, author of The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote
  • 6:30 p.m. — Weiss book signing
  • 7-10 p.m. — Live music by UltraFaux

File photo

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The County Board is moving closer to approving the first increase in the Arlington Public Library’s (APL) collections budget since 2014.

The proposal is part of the FY2020 budget sketched out by County Manager Mark Schwartz, which allocates $300,000 to APL’s budget for books and other materials for rent. The Board expressed broad support for beefing up the library’s budget during a work session Tuesday.

APL’s chief materials manager Peter Petruski presented that increasing the budget would help reduce the e-book hold times which have been “climbing precipitously.”

Together with APL Director Diane Kresh, Petruski told the Board that currently average hold times for an e-book are 38 weeks, but they are confident they can knock that down to 28 weeks.

“That’s a significant jump,” noted Board member Matt de Ferranti. “Is there any particular reason that we’re able to make that transition to pull that all the way down?”

“If we directly go towards the most in-demand titles, more copies of them, into people’s hands… that’s how we getting that 10-week that drop,” replied Petruski.

Director Kresh shared that the hold times for print books hover between 18 and 19 weeks, and that APL is “very hopeful” that the six-figure budget increase will help reduce that as well. Kresh also said the library would like to use the funding to buy extra copies of hot items, like Michelle Obama’s biography, which still has 300 holds.

APL also wants to use the funds to roll out a new movie and documentary streaming service called “Kanopy” currently used in Alexandria and D.C. public libraries. The last fiscal year budget cut 17 percent from the collections budget — leading the library to remove free digital services like its audiobook streaming service and investment research tool in July.

Schwartz previously forecasted up to $30 million more in county budget cuts this year, but proposed only $5.2 million due to some unexpected growth in real estate revenues and lower-than-expected employee healthcare costs. In a February letter about the proposed FY2020 budget Schwartz recommended using the county’s fortuitous finances to increase APL’s collection budget.

“This really goes a long way towards addressing where we’ve been in the past and we’re very, very grateful for the support,” Kresh said to the Board Tuesday afternoon.

“Since 2014, not only has the collection budget not increased as costs have escalated but the use of e-books and other digital platforms have become increasingly popular,” wrote Schwartz in February. “The library’s ability to provide popular materials to patrons in a timely manner, in either digital or print format, has eroded significantly.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Board members Katie Cristol and Eric Gutshall seemed to signal support for the budget increase by commending the library for its goals to reduce hold times and increase collections.

Board Chair Christian Dorsey said, “It’s remarkable when you think about it even though we’re having a budget discussion, libraries serve as any and everything for people in our community. Safe spaces for kids, productive spaces for teens, ways to combat social isolation for seniors and everything in between.”

The County Board will have until late April to amend the proposed county budget for the next fiscal year and is scheduled to vote on the final version on April 23.

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