Community Experts Leave Their Mark at the Bookstore

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"If there's one thing local bookstores have," said Bookshop Santa Cruz owner Casey Coonerty Protti, it's a knowledge of experts within their communities. Coonerty Protti has put this expertise to work through Bookshop Santa Cruz's Trusted Source Program.

Every month, the store partners with one local business, non-profit organization, or maven, who chooses five books that are labeled "Trusted Source Community Picks." Those titles, accompanied by shelf-talkers written by the partners, are on display in the store, featured on the Bookshop Santa Cruz website, and promoted in the store's e-newsletter. The partner organization shares the newsletter with its own mailing list, spreading awareness beyond the bookstore's regular customers.

Poet Adrienne Rich, author Laurie R. King, and veterinarian Dr. David Shuman, representing a local animal hospital, are among the Bay Area experts who have shared their shared their book picks with the community through the store's cross-marketing program. This month's Trusted Source Partner is UCSC's Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems.

The two-year-old program, inspired by one Coonerty Protti encountered in Canadian bookstore chain Indigo, is popular. "We've had lots of people" volunteer to be Trusted Sources, she said, but she selects partners carefully, to ensure that customers can continue to rely on the book recommendations. "It's really important for us to choose who the trusted source is."

Coonerty Protti chooses the store's partners after settling on each month's overall marketing theme. "It's been fun to figure out who the next community partner will be," she said. When the partner is another local business, she asks the other store to share the marketing expenses, making it a joint effort.

"It's really actually helped our staff," Coonerty Protti said, explaining one of the long-term benefits of getting experts in different subjects to recommend books. The selected books retain their Trusted Sources stickers even after the display changes and that helps booksellers make recommendations of their own. --Sarah Rettger