2020 has been quite a year for everyone. But The Friends of the Library were hit especially hard — quite literally. In addition to having to close their doors in March due to a global pandemic, this spring’s tornado damaged the Friends Used Book Warehouse roof, rendering the building unusable. So, Friends Social Media Director Bobby Minelli got creative, setting up shop in the garage space next door.
The Garage is a used book boutique that stocks a carefully curated inventory of best sellers, coffee table titles and children’s books. It’s the perfect marriage of form and function; an artfully designed space that ultimately exists to serve the community. Cincinnati Parent spoke with Minelli about The Garage’s conception, the importance of books, and the next chapter for this special place.
The spring was quite devastating for the Friends of the Library. How did the idea for The Garage come out of this?
The Garage was born out of unprecedented events, to be sure. Basically, we were facing a very extended and necessary closure due to repairs on the building and operational change in the interest of public health, and when assessing what we could do, and how we could do it, we realized that most inquiries were coming from parents and grandparents — frequent library users who had run low on reading material. We wanted to provide an option where folks could come pick up bundles of books, and perhaps browse by appointment. That required a space dedicated to the endeavor.
Tell us a little about how The Garage works.
The Garage is a curated selection of inventory from our Warehouse. Some of the books are bundled and collected by age range and reading level, but there are also best sellers, cookbooks and a growing number of other sections. The Friends of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is a nonprofit with a long history of support of the Public Library. Our mission is twofold: get books into the hands of those who love and need them, and use the sale of those books to support the Library. This year, a major goal is supplementing funding to Library reading programs.
The Garage is a gorgeous, Insta-worthy space: bright white walls, books curated by color and a sculptural centerpiece — the Ivory Desk. Tell us about the design and what you’re hoping to convey.
I helped design and populate spaces for pop-up dining events in Chicago and L.A., and there was always cross over into the Rock n’ Roll territory, where myself and others would provide music in the space. I was fortunate enough to play several times at The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles as a part of the monthly variety show, The Last Book Review. Their bookstore is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever been in, filled with sculptures made from recycled books. I was intrigued by the art and the beauty of the book, as an object, could represent the transcendent magic inherent in the book as a container for thought. I wanted a visual symbol for the magic of books and I always loved monochrome installations. So, I worked with what I had, and the Ivory Desk was the result. I built it so it can easily be transformed into a stage, because we have some very cool plans for the space.
What are you doing to promote The Garage as a community space?
We are working with local artists, who can inhabit the space in their own ways and add to the magic of a room full of books. We have a small concert series planned, called “Garage Rock” where a diverse range of musicians are going to do quick sets in the space that will be filmed and made available online. The idea of engaging with the community is central to the Friends growth; as a resource, a bookshop and a historic nonprofit in Cincy, the Friends is an incredible organization to have in the city and we want people to know we are here!