Kaitlin's Salad Days as a Bookmans Intern
By Kaitlin Hooker, Bookmans Editorial Assistant Intern
I sat in the library until midnight one Friday night in late October because at midnight the cashiers who work the parking garages at the U of A campus go home. There’s no automatic payment system for parking, so at midnight you can trick the system and take your car out for free. I’ve always been one to do things last minute and applying to intern for Bookmans was no different. Stressed and pressed for time, I exchanged emails with my now manager/mentor/hero Rebecca Ballenger–web editor and social media manager at Bookmans resource center–who told me I was more than welcome to submit an application, but that they were only selecting one person. Looking back, I can’t imagine why they hired me–I submitted all my writing samples as individual Word documents (oy vey) and had so little web publishing experience that I nearly had an anxiety attack every time I posted a tweet. But, somehow, they took a chance on me and gave me the best internship experience I’ve yet to have–my salad days at Bookmans.
For every new employee, the first day of work at Bookmans is spent shelving at one of our six locations. I met Rebecca at Bookmans Grant and we spent four hours shelving books and DVDs, moving stock in and out of the back and getting to know the other employees. I remember someone kindly asking me where the nonfiction section was and how my heart began to race–not only because I didn’t know, but because someone had assumed I was a real-life Bookmans employee! At the end of this shelving day, a kind employee gave me a coupon for a free T-shirt, which I eagerly redeemed and sported in many of my posts to Bookmans’ website and Twitter account.
The rest of January involved a crash course in web publishing, Google AdWords, Facebook Insights and Twitter processes. I learned how to write for the web and how to work in an office like the Bookmans Resource Center–where the coffee maker is, how payroll operates and when to politely ask someone to close their office door if they’re talking about Downton Abbey when you haven’t seen it yet!
February arrived and I felt more confident coming into work every Monday and Wednesday. I got to know the other employees at the resource center and grew close with Rebecca as we sat and worked across from each other at her desk. I started going out on assignments in my free time and writing articles about them when I came into work. I went to Bookmans Sport’s free yoga class, played intramural badminton and went to movie screenings and wrote reviews. I learned about guitars, craft beer and John Dillinger, and even got to interview a close friend about his cross-country bike trip.
February was also the month I became more active on Twitter. It was hard for me–a devout English major–to write only 140 characters to get my point across, but it was a learning curve like anything else. It was also interesting to interact with customers through such a direct web outlet.
It happens to the best of us.
March was a blur of TFOB. The festival itself took place the second weekend of the month, so the two weeks prior were spent doing research on festival authors, writing TFOB related posts and organizing, alphabetizing and boxing books to be brought to the U of A Campus for the event. The weekend was a whirlwind. I met so many employees from the stores–as I work exclusively at the resource center–and saw directly how the community interacts with Bookmans as a company. I yelled about our $1 sale on the mall and met Book Man, the superhero of our organization. I also received a press pass and attended a talk about Edgar Allan Poe in a free moment away from the tent. I got a sunburn and had a great time.
April was when I realized how little time I had left to work on the Oran Follett letters. The Follett letters comprise the project I worked on over the entire 5-month period I spent interning, for which I transcribed a set of letters between an engaged couple living in the 1830s during a cholera epidemic in New York. However, between the blur of TFOB and the months spent learning web and social media skills, they got pushed aside and nearly forgotten. I remember sitting in Rebecca’s office one day and bringing up the letters. By our silent, scared eye contact I could tell we’d both forgotten. “Yeah let’s work on those,” she replied.
Though the hardest part was, without a doubt, interpreting that darn cursive scrawl, I finished transcribing them my last work day in April, just in time for the frenzy of finals and term papers.
Every year I’ve been in school (16 years now guys, 16), May rolls around with mixed emotions. On one hand, I’m excited for summer, for a break from school work and for a change of scenery. On the other hand, I know how much I’ll miss my friends, my school and the routine of academic life. However, this May is made all the more bittersweet because it’s the last month I’ll spend interning at Bookmans. I learned so much in my time here and I can’t imagine returning to U of A in the fall with no articles to write, no Twitter account to manage and no debates with my Bookmans coworkers on whether the book or movie version of a story is better. My salad days at Bookmans came to a close, but the people I’ve met and the things I’ve learned here will stay with me.
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