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Introduction to Membership in the Co-op
The Seminary Co-op Bookstore has been independent and member owned since 1961. Members join the Co-op by purchasing three shares of stock, at $10 each, for a total of $30, and are then part-owners of the Co-op, entitled to a ten percent discount on all of the books in our stores. By becoming a member, you not only invest in a local company; you become part of an intellectual community. We now have over 50,000 members, but we were founded by just 14 people who wanted a bookstore that represented them. We are grateful to be owned and patronized by so many intelligent and serious readers, from Hyde Park and around the world. We encourage you to see yourself as a part of the Co-op, to make suggestions and participate in the Co-op community—to make the Co-op yours. Over the years, our members have included authors, intellectuals, and public figures such as G. E. M. Anscombe, Saul Bellow, S. Chandrasekhar, Friedrich Hayek, Paul Ricoeur, Susan Sontag, and Harold Washington, to name just a few. Among our thousands of current members are Barack and Michelle Obama. All of our members share equally in ownership of the Co-op, and by becoming a member, you can help shape us in years to come.
Since our founding, we have grown from a small basement store into a labyrinth of books, and we now have three locations across Chicago. With each location, we have endeavored to serve the community in new ways. Our Woodlawn Avenue store is widely considered the best academic bookstore in the country, with a large selection of University Press titles and sections that reflect the academic strengths of the University. In 1983 we opened a second branch, 57th Street Books, at the corner of 57th and Kimbark. This store serves a more general readership and is closely fitted to the Hyde Park neighborhood and larger South Side community. 57th Street has an excellent selection of children’s books, cookbooks, travel guides, mysteries, and science fiction. Our third store, The Newberry Library Bookstore, is a warm, inviting space inside the architecturally impressive Newberry Library, at 60 W. Walton, just north of downtown. This store specializes in Chicago history, cartography, genealogy, Native American studies, the history of the book, and gift items such as book boxes and cards.
Our original store was in the basement of a Seminary building at the corner of 58th and University for over 50 years (hence our name). Working with the support of the University of Chicago, our original store has now moved one block east, to 5751 S. Woodlawn, neighboring Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House. We are thrilled with our new space, designed by architects Stanley Tigerman and Margaret McCurry—members of the Co-op since 1991. We have a more open space, and are glad to be able to see the sun during the workday. We hope that you will agree that the new space evokes our original labyrinthine aesthetic—with even more walls of books—while also offering a little more room to breathe.
We believe there is no substitute for being in the physical presence of books, and we hope you will agree. We give a lot of thought to what we keep in inventory and what we highlight, and feel that the bookstore experience is heightened by our knowledgeable staff. We hope that our new space is a comfortable haven in which to browse, read, study, attend author events, and even enjoy a cup of coffee at the neighboring café, scheduled to open in late spring. However, we also recognize that the web allows for a whole other kind of experience. We hope you will also stay in touch with us online, and feel free to order your books through our website and have them shipped to your door, wherever in this world you might find yourself. We are also, of course, happy to order any book in print for you if we don’t have it in stock. Please also visit our blog, The Front Table, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. But don’t forget to emerge from the virtual world every now and then to pick up a book from our shelves, hand-selected, unpacked, and sorted by us for you.
We hope you will consider joining the Co-op either at one of our stores or online.