Hints from Heloise and Abelard about Bookstore Windows

by Rachel Jagareski

Yet another customer sighs and notes that owning a used bookstore is
the ultimate dream job. She muses on how lovely it must be for me to
be surrounded by books, reading in between helping readers pick out
the perfect novel; absentmindedly petting store cat Sam and sipping
herbal tea while ringing up stacks of books.

AS IF, as the kiddies say. I only get a few smidgens of reading time
in the depths of winter, when I can count the number of walk-in
customers on one hand and it’s just too cold to stray away from the
full blast of the heater. As a brick and mortar bookseller, I usually
have a long and tedious to-do list in order to keep the shop clean,
bright and organized. Open shop owners are storekeepers, make no
mistake, and much as I would like to be dipping into great literature
with a cat on my lap and a latte in hand, I am more likely to brandish
a dust rag or toilet brush.

Which brings me to the glamorous bookshop owner topic of windows. Who
doesn’t love to wash windows? At Old Saratoga Books, we have twelve
foot high windows, so that I can pile on the acrophobia while
balancing my squeegee, washer fluid, paper towels and razor blade (for
stubborn tape and insect removal and for my wrists in case I get more
than twenty versions of “How about coming over and washing my windows”
from the sidewalk gallery). Being atop the ladder does increase
sales, however, as the phone will undoubtedly ring and the door open
as I juggle my way up to the top rung, so there’s that.

The front windows are my store’s best advertising and they must be
cleaned on the outside at least once a year to remove all the pollen,
street dust and bird poop that obstructs the view of my beautiful
books. I try to wait until our village finishes with street sweeping
before doing my Spring cleaning, but they recently bought a new
Sweepster 3000 and keep dragging this new toy out to pacify the
taxpayers, so I am defeated there. The lower portions of the windows,
inside and out, need frequent window cleaning touch ups to remove the
nose glue from store cat Sam (inside) and face and finger prints
(outside) from Sam’s admirers.

I’ve tried various ways of cleaning windows, using newspapers, vinegar
solutions, chalkboard erasers, and the like, but I have found that
blasting the windows with a lot of blue window cleaner several times
and then following up with a squeegee produces the best, streak-free
result. Window cleaning on a cloudy day will also produce better
results than doing so in full sun, as solar rays apparently rearrange
window cleaner molecules into an opaque state.

Bookstore rule #1 is that you can’t leave books too long in the
windows or they will get sunned and faded. Some colors of book cloth
and dust jackets sun very easily, like strong reds and oranges, so I
take care to rotate the window book displays every couple of weeks. I
also found that applying an ultraviolet window film measurably reduces
sunning and book damage. I discovered this after noticing a lot of
flaky, shiny book dander on the floor in front of my upstairs
anthropology section. This section faced an eastern window and the
sun had cooked up all the Mylar jacket protectors and they became
brittle and shattered.

There are many different brands of window film at your local hardware
store and they all involve taking the window down to work on it when
it’s horizontal. Make sure you measure carefully and buy enough
material to cover your window area, or you may find yourself in a
endless cycle of hardware store road trips trying to find your
original brand. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully,
making sure to dry the window first, then add the film and press out
any air bubbles to ensure greater adhesion. Some brands will also
recommend spraying window cleaner over the film, so make sure to do
everything accurately to avoid having to do this repeatedly. I speak
from experience and have one unruly window that regularly floppe down
from the top until I resorted to using clear packing tape to secure

Bookstore housekeeping is tedious, yes, but there is a certain zenlike
state one can enter to make it pass more easily. Just pretend you are
are the kind of bookstore owner that is regularly ensconced in a book,
taking sips of your favorite beverage, and you’ll find those windows
have a way of cleaning themselves.

Old Saratoga Books
Dan and Rachel Jagareski, Owners
94 Broad Street
Schuylerville, NY 12871-1301 USA

Check out our bookstore blog: http://booktrout.blogspot.com

(518) 695-5607

Store hours: Wed. through Sat. 10 am to 5 pm, Sundays noon to 5 pm

2 thoughts on “Hints from Heloise and Abelard about Bookstore Windows”

  1. You are on target with how the sun can damage your book jackets. I suggest, rather than choosing the DIY route, have a local window film dealer do a professional installation of a new technology CLEAR film, such as 3M Prestige 70, that will not only block the UV portion of the light, but also significant amounts of the Infrared light that also contributes to fading and sun damage.

    These new tech films are not “over the counter” films from a hardware store. They will perform better and the professional installation will insure that the window display looks top notch. You don’t want a poorly installed, dark or reflective window film distracting from the view of the merchandise! Newer film technology is barely noticeable on the glass.

    FYI, cause of fading is: 40% UV, 25% Visible, 25% Infrared and 10% Miscellaneous. Blocking UV alone helps, but a clear film that also blocks IR and slightly in the Visible range will look better and perform better.

  2. Thanks for your comment Jeff, very informative. Certainly an option to consider if the budget is there. Used book dealers often are forced to go the DYI route due to a simple lack of spending money. Your website looks top notch, worth a visit.

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