After more than 25 years in Madison, the Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative is in danger of closing due to financial troubles.
“We are in the process of having meetings to come together and determine what we want to do as a store and as a cooperative,” said Elizabeth Severson, a Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative volunteer.
Although the store is scheduled to remain open through the end of September, its future beyond that point is uncertain. To encourage business and community interest, every item at Rainbow is currently at least 50 percent off.
A group of volunteers started the Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative in 1989, and it remains staffed by several dozen volunteers today, according to the store’s website. The store is predicated on books that “challenge the status quo,” with sections of the store focusing on topics such as socialism, feminism and the media, among others. It aims to use its resources to serve as “a meeting place, social space, and informational hub for Madison’s progressive community.”
This engagement with the community manifests in the many programs that the cooperative runs each year. Rainbow runs the ‘LGBT Books to Prisoners’ initiative, which sends books to LGBT-identifying prisoners in the United States, as well as the ‘Wisconsin Books to Prisoners’ program for prisoners in Wisconsin. The bookstore also brings many authors to Madison for events throughout the year.
According to Sandi Torkildson, co-owner of fellow Madison bookstore A Room Of One’s Own, there is still demand for local bookstores, but community support is crucial.
“There is joy in going to a bookstore because you don’t have to know what you’re looking for,” Torkildson said. “We had some tough times during the recession, but we had lots of support from the community … people should buy from their local bookstore, because it will help it survive.”