Why can't we save a community center?

April 01, 2001|By Sandy Kelman

WHEN I HEARD Bibelot was closing, I was stunned.

The local Bibelot is five minutes from my house. I feel warm and fuzzy when I go there. Cozily surrounded not just by books, magazines, CDs, tapes, calendars and games but also by an open, friendly atmosphere, I've spent hours meandering through the nooks and crannies that make up the heart of the store.

Bibelot has been so much more than shelves of books. For example, there was an Australian didgeridoo performance and a talk by an Arizona psychiatrist who enlightened us about the spiritual beliefs of the Navajo.

My older son insisted we see Emeril Lagasse, the food network chef. I enthusiastically interpreted Emeril's "happy" recipes and vibrant "BAM!'s" for my son (who is deaf and couldn't wait for Emeril to sign two of his cookbooks). It was a mother-son moment.

Bibelot was the source of gifts for friends and relatives. Pretty little books about flowers went to my mother and mother-in-law; a bride's cookbook went to the daughter of the third cousin who once accompanied me to an eighth-grade dance; a Disney cookbook seemed perfect for a colleague with four children who was getting married for the second time.

To feed my soul, I bought such treasures as a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (ah, at last I was reading good prose again), a planner with quotes about tea (true to my English heritage) and a tape that included songs of cheers for the Ravens and the Orioles.

My most prized purchase is a magazine with an article about Gene Autry. At the time I noticed the singing cowboy's picture staring up at me, I was putting together a story in which I recalled my mother taking me to see Gene and his horse, Champion.

I had gone to Bibelot for monthly meetings of a group of writers of children's stories. I'll miss the literary environment where we sat, shared and critiqued our writing while patrons strolled by, sometimes stopped to peruse the shelves and occasionally eavesdropped as we read aloud.

Even as I grieve over Bibelot, I have a confession: I, too, browsed, read and took notes from books without buying. I took advantage of Bibelot's laid-back atmosphere. I'm paying the price now for my negligence.

Isn't there some way to save what has become more of a community center than a for-profit business?

Sandy Kelman, a free-lance writer, lives in Pikesville.

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