Early on during day one of the weekend-long Pop Shop Houston, a gentleman whose girlfriend would be working a booth all weekend boarded the bookmobile in search of something to read to help pass the time. After a minute or so, and to our most pleasant surprise, he walked up to the desk and asked how much the R.L. Stine classic, Goosebumps no. 25: Attack of the Mutant, would be. We said, “a dollar?” (our standard price for kids’ paperbacks), he paid, the three of us exchanged some Goosebumps-related pleasantries, and he left.
The next day, he was back again, Attack of the Mutant in tow. He asked if he could switch it out for something else, and we complied. After a minute or so, following a brief conversation about how underwhelming and unscary Attack of the Mutant had been, he presented us with his Sunday read: the R.L. Stine classic, Goosebumps no. 3: Monster Blood. We noted it, exchanged some pleasantries, and he left.
Thinking back, I realized that this was the first time that this had ever happened – where someone returned with a book they had bought (as opposed to borrowed) and exchanged it for something new. While a bartering system is fundamental to our library model, it had previously only come in the forms of price negotiations and trades/discounted membership for new donations.
Everything you see on our truck – all of the books, CDs, and movies – can either be bought or borrowed. We have always operated as a hybrid library/bookstore, encouraging it to be used as a library (with no due dates and no late fees), but accepting that a bookstore may be more practical for some. On the bookstore side, we ask that you barter with us. The most common form this takes is American dollars for books, but that is by no means the only currency we accept. For instance, it’s snow cone season.
Library membership at the BPTL ($5-$20/year for 1-5 items out at a time) is set up in such a way that you may, without consequence, opt to never return the items you check out, effectively using our collection as a bookstore. What’s been missing is the opposite – using our collection as a bookstore to start, then having an opportunity to use it as a library at no added cost, even if the initial cost was a snow cone.
So, without further ado, we would like to announce a new policy to change that:
Any* item obtained from our collection may be returned and exchanged one-for-one for any other item in our collection at no added cost.
(*We do reserve the right to claim dupage. Examples of dupage include (1) returning noticeably damaged materials, (2) purchasing a paperback for $2 and immediately trying to exchange it for a 1,000-page hardback, and, obviously, (3) theft.)
Hopefully this will provide further incentive (aside from the collection itself) for folks who have used us as a bookstore to come back, and an option for everyone to experience us as a library or a bookstore every time they climb aboard, rather than feeling they have to commit one way or the other from the get-go. And in effect, the BPTL will transform into an even more fluid library-bookstore.
So, to the gentleman we only really know as “Goosebumps guy”: feel free to bring Monster Blood back whenever you want. We’ve got Goosebumps no. 18: Monster Blood II calling your name.