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Q&A: The Bookmark's New Managers

The Bookmark Bookstore welcomed two new co-managers, Sven-Eric Geddes and Laura Guzman, at the beginning of October. Sven will be primarily responsible for store operations while Laura will be focusing on recruiting, promotion, and outreach projects. The duo is succeeding longtime volunteer and store manager, Phyllis Couillard, who retired at the end of September.



Sven and Laura recently sat down at the Bookmark to interview one another about their history and vision for the future of The Bookmark.


Laura: So, Sven, tell me a little bit about you.


Sven: I have been a devoted user of the library since I was a child. I worked in the San Mateo Public Library for five or six years when I was in high school and college. I also volunteered with the Friends of the San Francisco Library and the Friends of the Palo Alto Library for a time. Then later I worked for the San Francisco Friends in a role much like this one: I listed books online; I was the donation center manager; I would work with volunteers on different projects; I ran sales; I reviewed and collected estate and other large donations; I picked out books and media for the SF Friends store and sales.


Laura: So what led you here?


Sven: I wanted to work in a physical bookstore and working in a Friends of the Library bookstore is ideal for me. Working for the Friends of the Oakland Public Library is pretty much the ideal of ideals. Oakland is the heart and soul of the Bay Area and I am very glad to be here.


Laura: Where's home?


Sven: San Francisco. I was born in San Francisco and I've lived there most of my life. As a kid I lived on the Peninsula and I was in school in Santa Cruz for a while. To mix metaphors midstream, San Francisco is the ego of the Bay Area. Enough about me. Laura, why don’t you tell me something about yourself?


Laura: OK, well, I started volunteering at The Bookmark at the end of May and immediately fell in love. I've known the Friends all my life. My grandma was a member and very active volunteer at our library back at home in upstate New York, so it's always sort of been a part of my history. I moved to Oakland from San Francisco during the pandemic, and as we were beginning to come out of it I wanted to find a way to get more engaged in the local community, and immediately thought of the Friends. And here I am!

My “day job” is head of communications and marketing for a large local general contractor. I also have a background in marketing for nonprofits and retail. I enjoy my work, and I love that I am able to merge my experience with my passion for books and libraries.



Sven: So, you're not just doing this for the money.


Laura: <Laughing> No, I’m not. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty excited about this opportunity.


Sven: Yeah, me too.


Laura: What are you most excited about?


Sven: I'm excited about getting to shape how the store looks and feels, making the store more kid friendly, and hopefully getting more people to come in here. It may still be a little while off, but I'd really like to start having events in the store again. I'd like to get more kids in here. I'd like to get more donations in certain areas like graphic novels, science fiction, lurid pulp paperbacks… I need to work on a full list. I'm just excited in general about the job.


Laura: Ditto. I'm excited about letting more people know about this hidden gem. So many people walk through the door and say they had no idea it was here before, that it was just sort of dumb luck they found it. The neighborhood is starting to come back to life, and so now is a good time to start introducing ourselves to all the folks who don’t know we exist, or reintroduce ourselves to the people who may not know we made it through COVID. I'm also really excited about engaging our volunteer community. It's such a passionate community. I've worked with a lot of volunteer organizations over the years and there's nothing like this one.


Sven: Well, it sounds like we both love libraries, bookstores and books. What's your favorite library memory?


Laura: My favorite library memory is actually story time. I grew up in a really small town with no stop lights, no school, no post office. We had three things: a church, a town hall, and a library. So, I basically lived at the library. I have this very strong, happy memory of library story time. Sitting around with my neighbors and family, surrounded by shelves upon shelves of books, and enjoying a good story together. This became my understanding of community. All libraries and bookstores are that to me now: community and home.

How about you?


Sven: I think maybe my favorite library moment – and this is probably not going to match up with anybody else's – was when I worked at the San Mateo Public Library and I went into the staff break room and I saw a couple of my fellow pages trying to cook a hot dog with an electrical cord. They just stuck the two ends of the cord in the hot dog. This has nothing to do with libraries. <Laugh>


Laura: <Laugh> You're right, I'm going to guess no one shares that with you. Alright, any final thoughts?


Sven: I'd like to solicit more donations in the way of ephemera, like the wall stuff or postcards, things like that. Stuff that doesn't necessarily drive sales, but makes the store more interesting. You don't want to have a bookstore with all Dan Brown books. You want to have unique things. Oddities.

Laura: I love that. I’ll just add as a final thought that we need volunteers. So if any members are thinking about re-engaging or getting more involved, reach out. There’s lots to do, and many ways we can leverage all the great ideas and skillsets everyone brings to the table. And we’ll have some fun, too!


If you want to connect with Sven or Laura, email bookmark@fopl.org.

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