Books | April 14, 2020 11:40 am

Crowdfunding Campaign Saves San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore

A request for help pays off — but many other bookstores still need assistance

The City Lights Bookstore is an independent bookstore founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin on Columbus Avenue in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, the birthplace of the Beat Generation of the 1950s.(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
The City Lights Bookstore is an independent bookstore founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin on Columbus Avenue in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, the birthplace of the Beat Generation of the 1950s.(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
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Last week brought with it alarming news for fans of both independent bookstores and literary history. San Francisco’s iconic City Lights was in danger of closing and had set up a crowdfunding campaign to keep its doors open. As with many independent businesses, being temporarily shuttered due t0 the coronavirus outbreak created an existential crisis for the shop. City Lights in particular is considered iconic both for its range as a bookstore and its place in literary history — it was founded in 1953 by Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

The crowdfunding campaign, set up on GoFundMe, contained an alarming explanation of the situation from City Lights Booksellers & Publishers Publisher and CEO Elaine Katzenberger:

I want to reassure you that we’re doing everything in our power to keep City Lights intact, and to position this beloved institution to play a vital role in what is for now a very uncertain future. We know how much we’re all going to need this place again, this home away from home where we can find each other once more, in person and in books.

Thankfully, the appeals for funding worked. Deadline reports that the bookstore’s campaign exceeded their fundraising goal of $300,000. At the time that Deadline’s report, by Bruce Haring, was published, the amount raised was in excess of $400,000. As of this writing, it’s a little over $467,000.

While City Lights has reached its own goal, a number of other independent bookstores across the country are continuing to seek help from possible donors everywhere. (The timely debut of Bookshop is also providing some assistance here.) A search for “bookstore” on GoFundMe turns up a number of independent establishments looking for support in a turbulent time; BuzzFeed News has also spotlighted several shops that are seeking assistance. City Lights may have found a solution to its problem, but many of its peers are still in search of that same resolution.

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