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Does it Matter Where We Buy Books? (part 1: Buffalo Street Books)

In this episode I spoke with Lisa Swayze, the general manager of Buffalo Street Books about the impacts of shopping local vs shopping online. Over the past couple years the library budget has been tighter than usual, despite the increase in demands on the library’s services. To better serve the community we’re inviting our supporters to join us as Friends of the Alternatives Library – and to do that, we’re calling into question what we support.

In this conversation we talk about the role of libraries and bookstores, alternative business models (such as cooperatives), and the struggle for independent booksellers to continue providing a community space in a world that’s turning more and more toward online delivery and stay-at-home shopping.

Lisa Swayze, General Manager, Buffalo Street Books

As mentioned in this episode:

About Buffalo Street Books

As a cooperatively-owned store, Buffalo Street Books is dedicated to being a downtown resource that supports the community’s passion for reading, books, and literacy.

​Centrally located in the historic DeWitt Mall, Buffalo Street Books is Ithaca’s community-owned cooperative bookstore. Originally opened as the Bookery II in 1981, the store was renamed Buffalo Street Books in 2009.  In February of 2011, the Ithaca community put together a massive buyout effort, raising over a quarter of a million dollars. In April of 2011, the store reopened as a cooperatively owned bookstore.

Buffalo Street Books is re-imagining the ways an independent bookstore can serve its community.

​With regular events featuring local and national authors and artists, Buffalo Street Books is one of the premier venues for literary events in a city with a vital literary arts scene and a rich literary history.​

Buffalo Street Books stocks thousands of titles for both adults and children, in just about every imaginable genre. as well as literary journals, cards, and periodicals.  In addition to our comprehensive and eclectic inventory, we can special order nearly any book in print and our First Class Program offers college instructors and students a way to get course books quickly, conveniently and affordably.

Cooperative Businesses Build a Better World.

​​Cooperative businesses are owned and democratically controlled by their members– the people who use the co-op’s services or buy its goods– not by outside investors. ​

Co-op members elect their board of directors from within the membership.

Co-ops return surplus revenues to members proportionate to their use of the cooperative, not proportionate to their “investment” or ownership share.

Co-ops are motivated not by profit, but by service-to meet their members’ needs for affordable and high quality goods or services; Exist solely to serve their members.

Local Businesses Build Stronger Communities.

Numerous studies have shown that shopping at locally owned businesses has striking positive effects on the local economy, and shopping at local bookstores has been shown to have an even more pronounced positive economic impact.  A recent study by Civic Economics showed that for every $100 spent at local bookstores, $45 remains in the local economy, compared to only $13 out of every $100 spent in chain bookstores. Money spent at local businesses simultaneously creates jobs, funds more city services through sales tax and strengthens an environmentally and economically sustainable centralized downtown.

In an era of big box stores and online outlets, independent bookstores are critically important sites for maintaining literary communities, preserving local flavor by combating the homogenizing effect of corporate stores and promoting a lively and diverse intellectual discourse. Buffalo Street Books works with many of Ithaca’s community and campus organizations, including the Tompkins County Public Library, Cornell’s Africana Studies and Research Center, the Ithaca City School District, and Ithaca’s Big Brothers, Big Sisters Program to create and strengthen an environment of lifelong literacy.


This is a project of the Durland Alternatives Library

Recorded, produced, and published by Ryan Clover in the studios WRFI Watkins Glen, Ithaca

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Ryan Clover-Owens

I'm on a mission to prove that we can live in a society that reconciles with our history, respects difference, cherishes the land and animals, and can create solutions to the challenges we face.