When you get a call like this one, “it makes everything better,” bookseller Helena Pohl said.
The phone call came from a former Port Angeles resident, a woman who wanted to remain anonymous as she donated $500.
The cash, given to downtown’s three-decade-old Port Book and News, is designated to provide free books to health care workers. That includes first responders, elder-care providers, hospital and clinic workers, home health aides — anyone on the COVID-19 front lines.
“This supports the community. It supports a small business. It’s just amazing,” said Pohl, one of Port Book and News’ six-member staff.
“We’ve been getting good response,” added Alan Turner, who owns the store with his wife, Cindy.
At the same time, other book stores, including in Port Townsend, are offering special services.
Turner encouraged health care workers to phone, email or Facebook-message Port Book and News with the title of the book they desire. If they don’t have specific books in mind, they can ask for recommendations based on their interests or something they enjoyed in the past.
“Some people just want to be surprised,” said Pohl; for others, it’s been a long time since they got to read a book for pleasure.
Yet another donation, this one furnishing free books for children, came earlier in March from a donor at D.A. Davidson & Co., the financial planning firm in Port Angeles.
That local resident gave $2,000.
“With the libraries being shut down, they really wanted [books] to be available,” she said, adding that young people or parents can call and ask for a title or a suggestion.
“If we don’t have it, we’ll order it,” Pohl said.
She and the rest of the staff offer readers several options for delivery and shipping. Port Book and News’ phone number is 360-452-6367, its email is [email protected], and its website is PortBookNews.com.
“We’ve actually been getting a lot of calls,” said Pohl, who added that magazines, newspapers, puzzles, socks and dog toys also are popular.
The nearby Odyssey Bookshop is keeping busy with phone and online orders at 360-457-1045 and odysseybooksgifts.com. Among the new titles on the market this week are Alicia Keys’ “More Myself” and Sherri Duskey Rinker’s “How to Put an Octopus to Bed.”
In downtown Port Townsend, the Writers’ Workshoppe-Imprint Books is likewise filling readers’ requests. The shop itself is closed, as are the nearby Insatiables and William James bookstores, but fiction and nonfiction continue to arrive in readers’ hands.
Customers are emailing and phoning, and most know exactly which title they’re after, said Samantha Ladwig, who bought the business six months ago with her husband, Thom Nienow.
“I just want a couple of paperbacks to get my mind off what’s happening,” some callers tell her, and she delights in picking those out.
“We’re trying to spread the word: You don’t have to know what you want,” Ladwig said.
The Writers’ Workshoppe and Imprint Books — which has moved its poetry, essay-writing and other classes online — is reached at 360-379-2617 and at [email protected].
“We just want people to stay at home. We’re doing direct-to-home shipping” while working at home, Ladwig said.
“We’re shipping directly from our distributor, so every book is available to us.
“If anything, I feel like there’s been a surge of interest,” she said.
“A lot of people are turning to books.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.