Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hooked on Books: Bookstore Independence Springs Forth in Colorado

Colorado Springs, Colorado, is a nice place to visit. Its quaintness and warmth bely a population of 320,000. Each 'Springer' need only turn their head to the west for a breathtaking view of Pike’s Peak and Cheyenne Mountain. A great spot to take in such scenery is the parking lot of one of the city’s oldest and most established bookstores, Hooked on Books, an independent enterprise which opened in 1982.

The store’s history is a special one. Its owner, Mary Francis Ciletti, founded the store with a two-year-old daughter in one arm and a hammer in the other. Through the decades, Hooked on Books has girded itself with customer-centered service and an eye on building relationships with patrons. Ciletti had a dream and saw it through. Hooked on Books is a literary staple and citizens in the ‘Springs’ know it. In fact, the virtual world knows Hooked on Books too; in the last few years, the Internet has provided plenty of showcasing space for the bookstore. It's also availed patrons - worldwide - to a plethora of first editions, rarities, and reasonable prices. The store's online identity is Aamstar Books, operated chiefly by Mary's husband, James Ciletti.

This Sacramento Librarian visited Ciletti’s store a few weeks back. Like our previous trip to Powell’s of Portland, our sense of smell is prompted: the aroma of used books, new books and cedar book shelves, built by Ciletti and her employees years back, provide the bibliophile with a serious olfactory rush. The store has numerous strengths, but its collections of local and military history are special. But that is a wee bit of the story; there are genres aplenty to be browsed through. The store's narrow and high network of shelves reminds one of a land of literary fjords with the occassional falling volume to keep the reader on his or her toes.

The Holiday Season has been good to Ciletti and her staff of 4. They believe in what they do and have fun doing it. A big band CD may be helping staff to whistle while they work and sounds of giddy staff-patron rapartee freely waft through the store. They understand the power of the written word and how it can influence a community. Ciletti has a close relationship with the Pike's Peak Library District, serving at one time on the system's Friends Board and has consistently supported literacy programs in the Colorado Springs area. Hooked on Books even helped out ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition with a healthy donation of books for a local family that was featured on the program.

Hooked on Books is a gem, built and maintained by real people. When in the Springs, don't pass up a visit. These people know their books, know their community, and want to know and help you.

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