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Publishers Weekly Bookselling

Chicago Develops Book District
Sam Weller -- 3/6/00

Downtown Chicago booksellers, in a joint effort with the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, have banded together to form the "Greater Loop Book District." The group includes new and used booksellers, chains and indies, as well as the main branch of the Chicago Public Library. The booksellers all fall into the downtown geographic section known as "the Loop."

The genesis of the organization started with an idea by John Hasbrouck, director of marketing for the Prairie Avenue Bookshop, a 39-year-old architectural bookstore that sits under the elevated train tracks on South Wabash Avenue.

"We had the idea of making a map of downtown bookshops to give to our customers," Hasbrouck told PW. "We originally planned to do a small flyer on our photocopier." Before long, the city of Chicago wanted to become a part of Hasbrouck's project.

"We took an introspective look at all the book stores," said Adam Rod, assistant to Mayor Richard M. Daley, "and knew that we could use a little more attention and marketing to emphasize that they are an exciting aspect of the downtown area. Chicago already has a vibrant theatre district and a jewelry district and a medical district. The Greater Loop Book District is a natural."

Hasbrouck appealed to other downtown booksellers for funding and soon the GLBD was born. The organization's first order of business was to draw up a map of downtown Chicago, highlighting the location of each bookstore. A description of each store is provided, along with a message from the mayor emphasizing the Windy City's long literary tradition. The initial print run of the pamphlet was 75,000 copies. The directory is distributed at each shop, as well as at Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports and all visitor information centers.

The GLBD includes more than 20 bookstores, including Prairie Avenue, The Savvy Traveler, the Afrocentric Bookstore, the Art Institute of Chicago's Museum Shop, Powell's Bookstore and two Crown Books operations. Hasbrouck, the director of the GLBD, said the group will meet occasionally to formulate further marketing endeavors.

"The GLBD is important because it not only increases the visibility of the downtown bookstores," said Hasbrouck, "but also because it demonstrates the remarkable diversity of the booksellers to be found in Chicago. It illuminates Chicago's downtown culture at its best."
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