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Mobile bookstore will roll around Newark

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In a word, bringing GoGo Books to life was “serendipitous,” owner Kate Keeper said.

“Everything just aligned perfectly,” she said, seated at Little Goat Coffee Roasting Co. last week. Her mobile bookstore, which celebrated a soft opening earlier this month, was parked across the street.

It all started about a year ago, when Keeper, 26, and her husband visited Stories Bookshop + Storytelling Lab in Brooklyn, checking it off her list of bookstores to visit. When they left, however, she was nearly in tears, she recalled.

“I was like, ‘This is what I want to do. I’m so sad. Brick-and-mortar stores are so hard, and I would love to have bookstore. That would be my dream,’” she said. “And he was like, ‘Well, why not? I don’t understand why you wouldn’t think that you could do that.’”

Sitting in their car, the pair thought of how Keeper could make a bookstore work. Keeper felt a brick-and-mortar store was too limiting. After reading about bookmobiles, which libraries use to bring books into the community, Keeper’s husband suggested that she do something like that.

Soon, Keeper left her job as a nurse to pursue her love of books.

“I loved being a nurse, but it just wasn’t fulfilling in all of the different ways that a job can be,” she said. “It was super wonderful to be of service to other people, but I didn’t have enough time to really be creative and things like that, because the schedule was so hectic.”

Through reading a news article, Keeper found John Berl, who specializes in building out food trucks. She contacted him, and by April of last year, she had a former Doritos truck to make her own.

While she “didn’t get in there with a hammer or anything like that,” Keeper – assisted by her mom – mapped out what she wanted the interior to look like, from depth and height of the shelves, to how to secure the books when the truck is on the move.

“I think in any business you have to figure out how to work with your space, but this was like a unique challenge,” she said. “But it was really fun to do.”

Then came the books. As she built up her inventory, she and her husband transformed a room in their Old Newark home to hold all the books that won’t fit on the truck.

“We would have huge tractor trailers dropping stuff off at our little ranch in Newark,” she said. “It was so funny.”

GoGo Books specializes in children’s books, running the gamut from cardboard books for little ones to young adult novels.

Keeper explained that when she went to the University of Delaware for English, she was doing a lot of required reading, which was taking away from her ability to read things she wanted to read.

“I felt like when I was a kid, my reading relationship was a lot different,” she said.

So, she returned to that initial love of reading for her bookstore, noting that she read in a recent article that the number of children who read for fun has dropped significantly.

Josh Yost, who works with Keeper at GoGo Books, agreed that reading as entertainment as changed for kids.

“They get handed an iPad a lot of times and kind of lose out on loving to read as at a young age,” he said.

Keeper added that books are multidimensional, sensory forms of media.

“I’m just hoping to instill reading for fun and have kids be able to pick books,” she said.

The truck holds a couple thousand books, and Keeper tries to have eclectic titles mixed in with well-known series.

Keeper said she has combed through a variety of catalogs to select books, which she reads through to make sure they are a good fit.

“I want someone who doesn’t like to read or says they don’t like to read to come onto the truck [who] has like a really obscure interest or something – like dinosaurs who ice skate or something like that – and be like, ‘Oh, I have the perfect book for you. Here it is,’ and then have them love reading because they found something that resonates with them,” she said.

She sees the book truck as a more personal way to buy books.

“I don’t just want to sell books like a Barnes and Noble or Amazon,” she said. “It’s more like an experience that you come onto the truck and I know my stock really well, and I can help you find exactly what you’re looking for. And, you know, you want to bring your kids there and have a day out of it.”

Keeper plans to take the book truck to festivals and other events in the area, as well as form partnerships with other local businesses. Her next event is at The Creamery at Kennett Square on May 4 and 5.

She also plans to host storytimes and singalongs at the truck, she said.

She thinks the truck will appeal to parents who homeschool their children, have children too young for school or need to entertain their kids during school breaks.

“I left my nursing job because I wanted to do what I want to do when I want to do it. And this is what I hope will help me get there,” she said. “I seriously just love being around books, I love being around people. I just want to be out in the community.”

For more information or to locate the truck, visit gogobooktruck.com.

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