Tell us about Open Books and the organization’s history.
Open Books is a nonprofit social venture that operates an extraordinary bookstore, provides community programs, and mobilizes passionate volunteers to promote literacy in Chicago. Every time you shop at Open Books in River North, proceeds are funneled toward our signature reading and writing programs, which transform the lives of students of all ages across the city of Chicago.
What is your role at Open Books and what excites you about your job?
As the Marketing Manager, I am excited that I get to work with and support all of my coworkers with their department’s promotional needs. From programming to book donations, I get to explore and learn about all facets of the organization. Open Books is also very supportive in allowing me to explore creative ideas and utilize new tools to tell our story, which is evolving every day.
What are some of the challenges Open Books faces as a non-profit organization and how do you overcome those challenges?
Like most nonprofits, Open Books is always trying to raise more money to do the most good for the students we work with. Unlike many other groups though, Open Books has a unique revenue stream – our bookstore. By collecting used books from generous donors, we can sell them online and in our River North store and generate income to support our work. Proceeds from the store don’t cover our costs entirely, but it provides a buffer from the unpredictable nature of grants and government funding.
Give us an example of a creative output that you’re particularly proud of.
One of the most fun and creative (yet daunting!) responsibilities I’ve had has been developing and planning unique fundraising events. I’m particularly proud of establishing a framework for Make the Case, our bookcase-decorating contest and fundraiser. Last year, we had 9 teams compete, including Catalyst Ranch, who took home first place! Afterward, all of the beautiful hand-decorated cases were filled with books and placed in local community centers and nonprofits, bringing books to people who might not otherwise have access to them. (pictures left & below from Catalyst Ranch’s 2011 Bookcase)
What recently piqued your curiosity and how did you satisfy it?
What doesn’t pique your curiosity would be a question with a MUCH shorter answer! I’m always interested in new ideas, new looks, and new crafts. I was recently given a stack of vintage fabric samples and had been waiting for the right opportunity to use them. I came across a set of chairs at a thrift store and thought, “Aha! I will reupholster them with my swatches. But first, I must learn to reupholster!” So I sat and watched videos and practiced with scraps until I perfected my light-duty stapling technique. A few hours later… Voila! A “new” set of chairs and a new skill for my handmade toolbox.