Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Full Circle Books

By Lauri Sagle

MARCH 1, 1999:  I did a good amount of my Christmas shopping there, running into several acquaintances who were doing the same. None of us suspected that this fine Albuquerque bookstore/gathering place/literary launchpad for up-and-coming writers was on the brink of disappearing for good. Ownership changes and refinancing were in the works, but the outlook seemed stable. After all, as the second longest running, independently owned feminist bookstore in the nation, it had already survived 25 years.

So its death--before most of us even knew it was dying--was all the more unexpected and, therefore, more painful. It's another hard lesson, as well as a politically applicable cautionary tale, for Full Circle supporters and the feminist community: Take nothing for granted. Helene Vann, a longtime employee of Full Circle, spoke with the Weekly Alibi and delivered her analysis, her prognosis and her gratitude.

Full Circle was much more than a bookstore. How would you describe its function in the community?

We provided services to underserved sectors of the community. Hardly a day went by when we didn't direct someone to the domestic violence shelter, the rape crisis center, to books with information on sexual harassment. We were also a good activity center, providing a safe place for women who, for example, wanted to find someone to go horseback riding with or on wilderness trips with. Besides that, we were also very good at recommending great books.

So, in short, what happened to our beloved community bookstore?

The Full Circle Community Foundation was formed about a year and a half ago to save the store, but after many arduous months, it just didn't work, and they just couldn't come to an agreement [with the owners]. Then there was a private buyer, but she backed out, so we're closing. I can't say enough, though, about how hard everyone worked to save the store.

Is there any possibility that we could see a resurrection through an ownership change and subsequent rescue à la The Guild Cinema?

I think it would take a miracle at this point. We need a whole new system, the the computers are old. Various plans for donating the store to the Full Circle Community Foundation and having employees pool resources to purchase the store didn't pan out. Besides, as we found out, in order to purchase the store, we needed more than just the money for a downpayment.

Would you say that Albuquerque's general social climate and receptivity to Full Circle has changed over the last 25 years, and, if so, how?

I've only worked here for 13 years, but I've seen the community change somewhat in the last five years. There's been much less emphasis on and awareness of feminism. There are many young women who have no knowledge of the herstory we've gone through to get to this point. They think their politics are safe, and they don't realize how unsafe they are--like how we keep having to fight for abortion rights over and over again, especially as so many clinics continue to close. Of course, I also know young women who are very political and aware, too.

As far as the larger community, there's more acceptance. We used to have our windows soaped or broken. But I don't know whether it's acceptance or if the would-be perpetrators are off with bigger fish to fry, doing dastardly things in other places.

Is there still a place for a feminist bookstore in Albuquerque?

Oh, absolutely. It's very needed. I don't know where it might come from. One of the potential buyers said, "Maybe later," but she was looking at other sites on Central. A [revamped] Full Circle-type store could be poised to go full sail ahead into the 21st century. Working at Full Circle has always been a labor of love. We worked there because we really believed in what we did and in the services we provided. And we gained a lot from the community, too. A successful feminist bookstore should experience both.

Although there were internal issues that fostered the demise of Full Circle, you've probably experienced your share of pressure from big chain bookstores. The disappearance of independently-owned bookstores, whether directly or indirectly related to the chains, is an insidious trend. What's your prediction for the future of the smaller stores?

Well, this trend has affected hardware, grocery and drug stores too. And doesn't K-Mart own Borders? We know they're not interested in anything but profits. Once they take over, they'll be able to dictate what gets published and, in the end, what we read. It's very frightening. There are very few independent feminist bookstores left. We were constantly under the gun from [the chains]. They give discounts now, but once the independent bookstores go, so will the discounts, and so, in some way, will a measure of our freedom.

Full Circle Books is now closed.

Page Back Current Issue Page Forward

Books: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Cover . News . Film . Music . Arts . Books . Comics . Search

Weekly Wire    © 1995-99 DesertNet, LLC . Weekly Alibi . Info Booth . Powered by Dispatch