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The Seminary Co-Op Bookstore, Hyde Park, Chicago

posted on 07 Aug 2017

The Seminary Co-Op Bookstore, Hyde Park, Chicago

The Seminary Co-Op Bookstore on Woodlawn Avenue is a sister bookshop to 57th Street Books which is also reviewed on this site. This shop however specialises in books with a very different focus – claiming on its website to be one of the largest collection(s) of academic books in the world. 

Serving the needs of the Chicago University which is nearby means the claims that you might well bump into a Nobel Prize winner browsing the shelves alongside you is no idle fantasy. However, you will also have to accept that some of the warmth of a community bookshop has been sacrificed to seriousness and order. As it says of itself:

Renowned as an exemplary academic bookstore, it attracts customers nationally and internationally. Its inventory reflects the literary and scholarly interests of its membership, many of them affiliated currently or previously with its neighbor and landlord, the University of Chicago.

In truth I found myself somewhat ill-at-ease in the shop. It has the feel of entering a library that sells books rather than  loans them and there was a slightly forbidding hush hanging over the atmosphere.

The stock is undeniably excellent in the range of academic subjects it covers and the shop is immaculately ordered and the shelving clean and neat. It’s a rather utilitarian experience but I suspect that is what its customers will want – it’s not primarily a browsing shop, you go there to get what you want and leave.

The building enhances the utility and is a low slung modern building which I didn’t get a chance to see in full because some scaffolding work is on-going.

You’ll want to visit this shop if you’re a serious fan of new academic publications and classic literature but go to see how efficiently a bookshop can be run rather than have a delightful browsing experience.

Terry Potter

August 2017