Situated a stone’s throw away from Spadina and College Streets, the historic University of Toronto Bookstore building stands tall with pride. We’re here on a Monday morning to meet Brian Charles Curran (32), a man of many titles (manager, trade buyer and off-site events coordinator), who has promised to show us around the heritage building and its suite of services.
Right now the store is fairly empty, but don’t let this deceive you, he warns. “We have no space for even ants to crawl in September when the fall session begins. In fact, we have extended hours and stay open till 9pm. This is just the calm before the storm,” says Curran as he guides us through the palatial floor of the bookstore into his matchbox-sized cabin.
Piles of books – old and new – are scattered all over the desk with his computer serving as the centrepiece. Curran parks himself in his chair like a proud parent of the space as he speaks to us about his association with the bookstore, his ardent passion for literature and his vision.
What does your typical day at the bookstore look like?
BCC: My days are long. Sometimes they start at 9:30am and I am here till 7:30 in the evening. Sometimes you’ll even find me here on the weekends. Curating and cataloging takes up most of my time. I have to flip through over 15,000 to 18,000 titles every year. Reading is a crucial part of my everyday job. It is also equally important to network and meet with representatives from various publishing houses.
Interestingly, even when I am not at the store, I still “figuratively” am. If you enter the store, at the admin desk, you can see a 3D figurine of myself. It keeps reminding everyone that I am around.
What task would people be surprised to know is part of your job as the bookstore’s manager?
BCC: The bookseller or manager can make or break a store. Here, I have the entire control over the knowledge presented in the store. The placement of a book in the store is extremely vital, and my job is to do exactly that as well as figuring out publishing trends. I have to know what’s going to be the next big book.
What makes UofT Bookstore unique compared to other bookstores across the city? How has it changed over the years as the city and student body grow?
BCC: The key is specialization of disciplines. We have carefully curated sections on philosophy, maths, poetry, politics, you name it! Besides, we have sub sections. For instance, there’s a broader world poetry alley and another focusing on Canadian writers. Not many know, but in addition to books, we also offer a T-shirt printing service at our store so students and associations can benefit from this facility.
How many years have you been at the UofT Bookstore?
BCC: It’s my fourth year here. I have been working here since 2014. In 2016, I became a salaried events coordinator as well as manager and trade buyer. I like to see myself as the face of the store like Ben from Ben McNallys.
What are you currently reading?
BCC: I am currently reading Reporter: A Memoir by Seymour M. Hersh as well as revisiting classics like The Count of Monte Cristo and the likes.
The Toronto International Festival of Authors to proud to welcome back the UofT Bookstore as the Festival’s official book seller for a second consecutive time. Be sure to say hello to Brian and his team when you visit the Festival Book Store at Harbourfront Centre, October 18–28, 2018.