A Book Store Map: The Source Book Store

Hidden among the streets of Davenport, Iowa, lays a rather large independent book shop, Source Book Store. Even from the front window, the shop boasts a large collection of used books, DVDs, CDs, and even records and VHS tapes. Truly, the store is right out of the ’80s.

The Experience

Upon entering the store, it appears to be a relatively typical used bookstore, with large shelves crammed with books and other trinkets. Even the front desk is loaded with papers, books, and fun decorations, such as a birdhouse made from old books. The smell of old books with only a slight layer of dust permeated the air.

Source Book Store
Source Book Store (image the property of Kendra Payne)

On the day I visited, an older woman was working the front desk, rapidly pricing the newest addition of books that would soon be available to the public. When the bell rang, she glanced up and asked if I was looking for anything in particular. Once affirming I was simply there to browse, she left me to my own peaceful experience.

As I began to browse the shelves, I noticed everything was completely silent, bar the cars passing outside, the occasional shuffle from the front desk, or another spare customer flipping through a book. I found it a bit odd that there was no additional music, especially for a store so scarcely populated by people.

However, I found that the lack of music helped me to focus more on the books I would be interested in purchasing or reading. For many people, music evokes certain moods that can influence their decisions or feelings on whatever they are experiencing. The lack of music in Source Book Store helped me, personally, to objectively look at the books rather than find something I thought I would love simply because the song playing in the background was a favorite of mine.


It did not take me long to realize the quality of the independent bookstore I had stumbled upon. Every shelf was very well organized. The rows of shelves were labeled clearly, and even the shelves were carefully labeled with the books on top actually adhering to the system setup. However, I never said the store was easy to navigate!

Source Book Store
Source Book Store (image the property of Kendra Payne)

Upon turning a corner or drifting to the opposite side of a shelf, another hallway or room would appear. Every time I turned around, it seemed there was another section for a genre of book I’d never heard of or had forgotten about. When looking at Source Book Store from the outside, it actually appears quite small. Wandering among the inside certainly debunks that initial thought. This addition to the store does make it feel a bit cramped and can certainly be overwhelming, but as an avid bookworm who would rather wander among shelves than people, I certainly wasn’t complaining.

At one point, I walked closer to the back of the store and discovered a staircase that led to a basement that boasted a large record collection and a $1 book section. While it certainly did not abandon the feeling of walking into a cellar, the basement was decorated with fairy lights along the wall and music posters in the section set aside for records.

The basement did give off a peculiar air, to be honest. The shelves were constructed of cinderblocks and wood. While it was certainly unconventional, it was clear there was an attempt to display as many books as possible for ease of access to the public, and the addition of Christmas lights along the cement hallways did help to liven up the place. To add to the organizational system, the basement held a section for book series where only the second or third books were available, so people were aware that they would not be starting their series journey in that section.

The Books Offered

As I wandered back upstairs and delved deeper into Source Book Store, I took note of their large collection of leather-bound books, all with decent prices considering the good conditions. Among these books was a massive, second edition, Webster’s Dictionary. While I was not particularly interested in purchasing such a volume, I was still enthralled with the book. After all, the rest of the books within the store had to get their words from somewhere.

Source Book Store
Source Book Store (image the property of Kendra Payne)

Source Book Store is also a definite haven for history and military buffs. There were more shelves packed with military history than any other genre in the store, and the collection expanded even to the basement. This does make sense, as the Army Arsenal is a 10-minute drive from the store. Still, it was more than American military history. The books branched far enough back to explain what Medieval warfare might have looked like and seemed to delve into every time period after.

There were certainly fewer current books and best-sellers available. But, as previously stated, the store is great for history buffs, including those interested in vintage comic books, instructional books, and magazines. There was an entire standing shelf dedicated to what looked like every edition of National Geographic Magazine ever published.

What added to the experience was that everything was in good condition, and even newer books were priced low. Where some bookstores put high prices on their very old or very new books, Source Book Store made sure everything was accessible to everyone in terms of prices.

A Definite Second Trip

Overall, I found myself entranced by my experience at Source Book Store in Davenport, Iowa. I browsed for way too long, simply enjoying finding all the hidden hallways and exploring the basement, which added a special touch to the entire experience. I even flipped through the records, CDs, DVDs, and VHS tapes, finding some of my favorite classic films and songs among the available options. While it was mostly silent and could be slightly unsettling at times due to that silence, I didn’t find myself too worried about it after a while. Source Book Store ended up being a perfect break in my busy week out in Iowa, and I found I really enjoyed the excess amount of time I spent within the walls. There was no better way to spend my day off than within the twisty-turny used bookstore.

*Source Book Store is located at 232 W 3rd St, Davenport, IA 52801 and can be found on Facebook