James Patterson picks Great Barrington's Bookloft as grant recipient


GREAT BARRINGTON -- Best-selling author James Patterson has indirectly helped pay the rent at The Bookloft for years, churning out novels faster than readers can pick them up off the shelves.

But now, the independent bookstore is getting a check, directly from Patterson's personal fortune.

The Bookloft was recently notified that it is one of 55 bookstores across the country to receive a grant from the author, who pledged last September to give away $1 million of his own money to help the plight of the independent bookstores. The grants, ranging anywhere from $2,000 to $15,000, can be used to invest in improvements -- anything from carpets to technology -- outreach programs or even bonuses to employees.

While The Bookloft co-owner Eric Wilska declined to disclose the exact amount given to locally beloved bookstore, he did say it was "a nice amount."

"It's bigger than ‘Pat the Bunny' but smaller than ‘War and Peace,' " Wilska said of the awarded amount.

Patterson's pledge to booksellers is a welcomed chapter in an industry saga that includes e-book and big-box store competition. The author -- who, according to The New York Times, has written one out of every 17 books bought in the United States since 2006 -- announced his personal crusade as his own bailout for bookstores. Bookstores applied for the grants with mini-proposals, explaining what they might do with the money.

"I just want to get people more aware and involved in what's going on here, which is that, with the advent of e-books, we either have a great opportunity or a great problem," Patterson told The New York Times in the February article "James Patterson Giving Cash to Bookstores." "Our bookstores in America are at risk. ... To some extent the future of American literature is at stake."

While Wilska said The Bookloft is having a good year financially, the grant will go a long way toward some of their ideas for outreach in the community, especially to promote children's literacy. Nothing concrete has been decided for the grant money, but Wilska said he and the staff hope to reinstate and reinvent a program called "Bookloft readers," in which staff and community volunteers go into under-served local schools to read to children and hand out books.

"We really acted out the story, we didn't just read to them," Wilska said. "The kids loved it."

They also hope to use the money to send children specialists at the bookstore to seminars to help better serve the community, he said.

Lauren Losaw, a bookseller at The Bookloft who has spent more than a dozen years as a librarian and children's librarian all over Berkshire County, said the grant is pretty exciting.

"I will certainly enjoy it," Losaw said of the opportunities the grant will provide. "These are things I feel are important: Connecting people with work and books, and connecting kids with words, with books. You don't necessarily always get to do that when selling books. But when you're a person, a voice, reading the book, you get to connect the child with that book."

With the check already in The Bookloft's account -- Wilska said they received it in the mail quickly after they were notified they were chosen -- the staff continues to throw around ideas. Wilska said though the money isn't necessarily a bailout, it will go a long way to improving the bookstore.

"Other industries have been bailed-out, why not ours?" he said. "In a way, it's just to help us to become a better bookstore, and now we have the money to do it."

To reach Lindsey Hollenbaugh:


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On Twitter: @Lhollenbaugh


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