The Dartmouth Bookstore will not see the new year. What was I thinking? A visit this week to pay final respects and maybe to buy a few books turned gut-wrenching the moment I walked in.
Employees were bagging racks of magazines and occasionally straightening a pile or two of the few books that remained. A handful of customers wandered through, eyeing empty shelves, and like me, looking heartbroken, and a little confounded.
An earlier photo, from this past fall
Everyone has a theory of who or what is to blame for the demise of this 140 year-old landmark: high commercial rents in Hanover, the behemoth Amazon, the corporate Barnes and Noble’s choice not to renew its lease, the notion that reading books—an activity that has sustained me throughout 61 of my 65 years—has become quaint and unsuited to the times. I don’t know the truth of any of these.
I do know this. An empty space where a bookstore once existed is, to borrow a phrase from an acquaintance, a blemish, and a sore one, on any town, much less one that is home to an Ivy League institution of higher education. It is true that despite the name, Dartmouth does not and has never had ownership of the bookstore; it is under no obligation to do anything. Still, in the seeming absence of any alternative, on the holiday wish lists of many Upper Valley citizens is a plea for Dartmouth College to step in and step up.
I hope it will.
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