Summer employment: bookshops


in Books and literature, Oxford

Reasons for which working at a book store for the summer – ideally Blackwells – is an increasingly appealing option:

  1. Working in a retail environment without a ‘hard sell’ character would be a refreshing break from Staples. Nobody is going to tell you that you need to ask probing questions to determine the literary needs of shoppers, then argue why a particular book suits those needs, then overcome their objections and sell them accessories. I enjoy being in a position to help people, but strongly dislike being in a position where I am under pressure to put them under pressure.
  2. Friends of mine who worked in book stores (especially Kate) really seemed to enjoy it.
  3. You can never know enough about literature or contemporary fiction.
  4. Staff discounts: useful both for summer reading and the acquisition of thesis related books.
  5. A high probability of literary discussions and the meeting of fellow appreciators of books.

The biggest potential liability is that such an employment environment might not allow the flexibility required for the travel I am hoping to do. It’s something to ask about if I get interviewed, in any case.

Having already dropped off a resume and cover letter at Blackwells, what other book shops might I apply to? There’s IQ, but it seems to be a really small place – though one that seems to be quite well admired. There are Borders and Waterstones, neither of which has the same institutional feel as Blackwells, but which are nonetheless possibilities. Since Blackwells is something of a tourist attraction in its own right, they are also more likely to take on extra staff for the summer, despite the exodus of students.
What other possible summer jobs do people recommend?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan May 27, 2006 at 2:55 pm

That’s not a priority of mine, though I do appreciate the implications telling people I work at bookshop would have, in general.

esther May 27, 2006 at 3:33 pm

i don’t think borders take on staff for just the holiday anyway, although i have friends who say it was a great job. the staff all seem to get along well.
couldn’t you help with one of the university summer schools? my sister helped at christ church. they pay quite well, you meet lots of people (incl other canadians). its not for the whole holiday so you can still organise travelling!
and lets not be snobby about jobs. i worked at the cinema for quite a while and met some of the most interesting and exciting people i know. i know people who work at bookshops/ pubs/ etc and that doesn’t mean they arn’t intellectually worthy of your time and you should look down on them. snobbery is one of the biggest forms of ignorance in my opinion.
-seems i feel quite strongly about that one :)

Milan May 27, 2006 at 3:47 pm

It’s not really a mattery of snobbery. There are simply jobs that are more interesting and engaging than others. Remember that I have been a janitor, worked in a juice bar, worked as a cashier, sold computers, photocopied and faxed documents for a law firm, worked in a bird sanctuary and for two summer camps, delivered newspapers, conducted telemarketing for a number of charities, done research, soldered components onto circuit boards, assembled and configured computers for an office, sold alcoholic drinks, and served as the subject of scientific experiments.

Among all of those, being a janitor, working for summer camps, and doing research were the best jobs, in terms of enjoyment. The law firm and research paid the most.

B May 27, 2006 at 4:14 pm

Even with that list, Homer Simpson still has quite a leg up on you.

He has worked as a boxer, mascot, astronaut, immatation krusty, baby proofer, trucker, hippie, plowdriver, food critic, conceptual artist, grease salesman, carny, mayor, griftor, bodyguard for the mayor, country western manager, garbage comissioner, mountain climer, farmer, inventor, smithers, poochie, celebraty assistant, power plant worker, fortune cookie writer, beer baron, kwik-e-mart clerk, homophobe, vigilante, and missionary.

You might want to try a few of those for the summer, ‘beer baron’ being right up your alley.

B May 27, 2006 at 4:15 pm
Milan May 27, 2006 at 4:33 pm

He left out submariner and fish gutter,

Milan May 27, 2006 at 4:35 pm

Actually, he left out rather more. 108 jobs, quite a resume.

R.K. May 27, 2006 at 2:32 pm

Working for a bookshop also has excellent ‘I am a student, this isn’t what I really do’ credibility.

Sheena May 28, 2006 at 9:12 am

Borders has a notice up that they are hiring. Something to check into.

Milan May 28, 2006 at 1:33 pm


Good to know. Thanks.

kerrie May 29, 2006 at 12:06 am

Be careful though! Blackwells fired a blogger one time (a 10-year employee at that) for making negative statements about work on his blog!!!

Milan May 29, 2006 at 12:08 am


Really? Those monsters.

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