If you need to be reminded of the importance of a locally owned, socially committed independent bookshop in the community, consider Next Chapter Bookshop in Mequon, a former Schwartz location reopened by employee -- now owner -- Lanora Hurley.
After seeing a blurry photo she tweeted yesterday, I asked her what it was all about. This week, Hurley told me, she's "all hot and sweaty from boxing and hauling" books. But she's not talking about the store's inventory.
No, Next Chapter partnered with Sharp Literacy, Inc. -- a Milwaukee-based group whose mission is "to energize urban school children to become confident, capable readers, writers and researchers, using the visual arts to engage young minds and reinforce learning -- to donate 3,000 books to area schools.
"Jim Griswold from Sharp Literacy, Inc. contacted us to supply them with books," says Hurley.
"I negotiated with the publishers to give me much better discounts than they normally would since these books are non-returnable and for a good cause. We then passed that discount onto Sharp."
So yesterday and the day before, Hurley and her crew worked at fever pitch to receive, sort and box the books and deliver them to 28 Milwaukee Public Schools. Then, many Next Chapter staffers pitched in and volunteered to deliver the books to the schools on their own time.
It takes a staff of community-committed folks to step up and put in that kind of effort.
"This is just one of those great things that benefits everyone," says Hurley. "As an indie bookstore, I am happy to make very little money (on something like this) and I consider this an act of community service. It's a great example of how local non-profits and indie businesses can work together to support each other to the benefit of our community."
Watch this space for a more in-depth story on the work that SHARP Literacy is doing in Milwaukee schools.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.