By Rachael Rifkin
Sean Moor’s 7-year-old daughter, Audrey, loves checking out books from the Dana Branch Library and fondly remembers attending its free programs like pre-school storytime. In an effort to support the library and its projects, Moor helped start the annual Dana Branch Library book sale three years ago. This year the California Heights resident, avid book collector and owner of the recently opened bookstore Gatsby Books donated 1,500 books to Friends of the Long Beach Public Library for the September 18 sale at the Dana Branch.
“The Dana Branch book sale is a great event to support because it directly benefits our branch library,” said Moor. “The leftover books from the sale are sent downtown to the main library, where they’ll end up for sale in the Friends of the Library shop. This nonprofit, volunteer organization benefits the entire Long Beach public library system.”
According to Dana Branch head librarian Jennifer Songster, the sale was a success. “The book donations go to the Friends of Long Beach Public Library, but all the proceeds benefit the Dana Branch Library specifically,” said Songster. “We earned several hundred dollars from the sale. We’re very grateful. We really appreciate the help.”
Moor is also involved with the Long Beach Reads One Book program. Last year he hosted a live reading of Steve Lopez’s The Soloist at the Sunday farmers market in California Heights and plans to include his store in the upcoming 2011 Reads One Book program. He just opened his bookstore on August 1, but the idea had been percolating in his head for a while. He started collecting books when he was a teenager. There are about 10,000 books in his personal collection and another 10,000 books at the store.
“When I was a teenager, I inherited a large collection of books from my uncle, who I didn’t really know. I think my uncle chose to give them to me because I was the only one interested in them,” said Moor. “When I started going through them, I realized he was a really cool uncle. There were lots of Beat writers, lots of Hemingway. Very guy’s guy type of writing. I started from there.”
Moor built up his collection by going to library book and estate sales all throughout college. “I had a secondary reading list. I had what I needed to read for class, and then I had what I was finding out there in the open,” he said.
After college, he had a whole host of jobs, including receiver for Super Crown Bookstores and fourth-grade teacher, but his ultimate dream was to have a fine used bookstore that sold clean, well-cared-for books that were both interesting and affordable. He finally made the leap this year, beginning with a booth at the California Heights Farmers Market and then transitioning to a permanent store at 5535 E. Spring St.
Moor sells “gently used” (i.e., no highlighting, underlining, marks or dog-ears), carefully chosen books. “I’m trying to make a real edited collection so when you go into Gatsby Books, you know that you’ll find what you’re looking for and hopefully a few things you didn’t expect to find anywhere,” Moor said.
He also buys books or issues store credit. In addition, he is working on putting together a series of literary events. For kids, there will be storytime hours and, for adults, Gatsby Books book club meetings, which will focus on American authors. Naturally, the first book will be The Great Gatsby. There will be a discussion on the book moderated by Cal State University Long Beach literature professor Peter Markman on Saturday, Oct. 3 at 3pm.
With plenty of room in the bookstore, he also welcomes speakers and book groups to use the space. There is no minimum purchase, and he can arrange for private meetings after hours.
“I want to keep the store fresh and interesting and make it a catalyst for anything literary in Long Beach,” Moor said. “That’s my goal, to create a literary heart in Long Beach.”