Introduction to Membership in the Co-op

Thank you for joining the Seminary Co-operative Bookstores. We have been independent and member-owned since 1961. Founded by 17 students, it has grown from a small basement bookstore into a labyrinth of books at two locations in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, now with over 53,000 members. At both stores, our experienced and knowledgeable staff gives careful thought to which books to stock and highlight.

The Woodlawn Avenue store houses an extensive collection, with a focus on titles reflecting the academic strengths of the University of Chicago. The Seminary Co-op is committed to the principles of free and open inquiry and seeks to support the life of the mind by providing a world-class selection of works by serious thinkers throughout history.

Two blocks away, at the corner of 57th Street and Kimbark Avenue, is the Co-op's second store, 57th Street Books. This store has served a general readership since 1983, and reflects the interests of the Hyde Park neighborhood and larger South Side community. 57th Street Books has an excellent selection of children's books, cookbooks, travel guides, mysteries, and science fiction.

By becoming a member, you not only invest in a local, cooperatively owned business, but also join a rich and storied intellectual community. Over the years, our members have included authors, scholars, and public figures such as Barack and Michelle Obama, Saul Bellow, Friedrich Hayek, Paul Ricoeur, Susan Sontag, and Harold Washington, to name a few.

The Co-op’s staff and board fiercely believe in the power of the written word to inform, enlighten and delight readers of all ages. We maintain that bookstores play a critical role in any community by providing a space for enrichment and camaraderie, as well as allowing for the magic of the serendipitous browsing experience. There is, in other words, no substitute for being in the physical presence of books, even as technology has changed the way they are published and distributed.

By joining this co-operative, you are acknowledging that these ideas resonate with you, and committing to actively participating as a member of our bookstores. What does this mean? You are committing, of course, to buying books from our stores. You are committing to telling colleagues, friends and relatives to consider doing the same and, moreover, acting as an advocate for and representative of the bookstore. You are committing to contributing to the decision-making processes for the store by attending our annual Member Meeting in December, where you can provide feedback and participate in the Board election process. We will share those commitments, and will also do our best to reflect the values and history cultivated over fifty-plus years while remaining relevant and responsive for at least fifty more.

Members are now spread throughout the country and the world, and many continue to be in touch with the Co-op through email and our website to order books. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. As a member, 10% of your total purchases each month will be credited toward purchases in the following month. Your credit will roll over throughout our fiscal year (July through June). We will celebrate our membership during the month of June, running a sale and member events. Please spend your credit by the end of June, as all outstanding credit balances are purged on June 30.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions, comments, and/or concerns. Welcome to our community and thank you for supporting the Seminary Co-op Bookstores.