By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Nov 18, 2010 at 1:02 PM

The Woodland Pattern Book Center in Riverwest has long stood as a sort of literary utopia. With so many indie bookstores drowned in the wake of big box competitors, the emergence of e-books, and the overall decline of literacy it's all the more reason to celebrate the venerable non-profit bookstore's 30th anniversary tonight.

Founded in 1979 by a group of volunteers, the shop now boasts six full-time staffers in addition to plenty of continued volunteer help.

The store's non-profit status has allowed it to be driven by the staff's passion for the written word rather than market pressures that have homogenized book retail.

"We get grants and funding that way, which allows us to focus on poetry and small press that other bookstores just can't," store manager Karl Saffran said.

Besides small press books, Woodland Pattern boasts one of the biggest collections of chapbooks -- a pocket-sized booklet popular with self publishers -- you'll find anywhere.

"We are looking at it like the more digital and e books that come along the more important and relevant it is going to be to a place that is about the book. We have a lot of handmade books or letter press books or artist books," said Saffran, "We can focus not on what's going to sell, but what's important."

The store also also includes an art gallery where we present exhibitions, artist talks, readings, experimental films, concerts and writing workshops for adults and children.

Early foresight by the stores founders, including current executive director Anne Kingsbury, to purchase the building the store resides in has made it possible for Woodland Pattern to stay put for their three decades existence.

"The founders ... were part of other art organizations that they sort of saw would be in one spot and renting a place and then the rent got jacked up and they had to move, and that lead to lots of art organizations sort of failing," said Saffran, "Our founders bought this building so we rent it from them and there is security as far as that goes in always being here."

Tonight's celebration at the Harley-Davidson Museum, 400 W. Canal St., will feature appearances by Anne Waldman, who founded the The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics with Allen Ginsberg at Naropa University, and John Giorno, star of Andy Warhol's film "Sleep" and an experimental poet whose 1968 Dial-A-Poem made contemporary poetry available to the masses by telephone.

A mayoral proclamation ceremony and volunteer recognition honoring Robert Ragir and Sally Tolan will also take place, along with a silent auction and, of course, celebration.

Tickets to the entire event including the reception and programming are $80 and $150 per couple. Program only tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.