Philadelphia Independent Bookstore Collections

The Libraries work with select local independent bookstores to collect items that were were written or published locally, that represent the books marketed and sold in physical form to specific local communities, or that reflect the interests of local cooperative centers with goals and interests aligned with those of the University. We have collections sourced from Hakim’s Bookstore, Moonstone Press, A Novel Idea, and Ulises.

About a dozen books and pamphlets with colorful covers laid out on a table.

Collection Overview

Each collection is distinctive in content, time range and extent. Purchasing patterns for each collection depend on available stock, ongoing purchasing, and relevance to the Libraries.

Hakim's Bookstore

Founded in 1959, Hakim’s is the oldest black owned independent bookstore in Philadelphia, and one of the oldest in the country. It is located in West Philadelphia, where it has served as an intellectual focus of the local Black community for decades. Since it’s founding, Hakim’s has focused on providing books specifically for Black audiences, often providing Afro-centric narratives about religion, history and society running counter to mainstream perspectives. Some of the titles in stock now have been available at Hakim’s since it’s early days. Consequently, this collection both represents the current stock and audience of Hakim’s and represents titles fitting Hakim’s mission published over six decades. The content has both contemporary and historic contexts. This is especially true of books meant for adults. The books for children, while specifically curated for a Black audience, tend to be contemporary. 

Our collection of over 300 items purchased in 2023 and 2024. Because Hakim’s stock is relatively small, we purchased all titles of interest available or one backorder at that time. We purchased every children’s and young adult title regardless of whether it duplicated Library holdings, and we purchased every books mean for adults that the Libraries don’t hold. Thus, a significant amount of mainstream and academic books were excluded. Ongoing purchases pend the turnover in Hakim’s stock, and will be determined on an ad hoc basis.

Moonstone Press

Moonstone Press formed out of the activities of the Moonstone Arts Center, which itself developed from the activities at the long-time Center City institution, Robin’s Book Store. The Arts Center’s mission is to “promote creative exchange through diverse cultural programs,” to which end it sponsors over 100 readings annually and provides a for intellectual discussions. The Press publishes chapbooks, perfect bound books, and thematic anthologies, with an emphasis on local publishers. 

Our collection consists of approximately 200 items published over the past couple decades and available to purchase through the online store in 2022. Because the titles are rare, we purchased two copies of everything then available, one for circulating general collections, and a second archival copy held by Special Collections. This collection allows insight into the literary output and interests of local writers who may or may not have gone on to publish to a wider audience.

A Novel Idea

The mission of A Novel Idea is “We believe in shopping small, not just because we’re a small business, but because there are so many talented artisans in the Philadelphia area. One way we shop small is through our dedication to promoting and selling books by local authors and small presses.” They also have a very active events calendar that regularly focuses on authors from the Philadelphia region. By working with this bookseller, we are able to collect and elevate works that major vendors rarely make available for us to purchase and we would likely not purchase.

Our collection consists of books sent to us on an ongoing basis since 2022. A Novel Idea has a profile of publishers in which we are interested and sends us new material on a quarterly basis or as they are able.

Ulises

Ulises refers to itself as “a bookshop and project space dedicated to artists’ books and independent art publications.” They “aim to support people who make books and expand the boundaries of what art publishing can be.” It is a cooperative space fostering an artistic and intellectual community as well as a bookstore specializing in books about design from unusual perspectives and in unusual formats, such as pamphlets, zines, and uniquely Artists’ books.

We have a robust ongoing purchase agreement with Ulises based on a Libraries profile of items of particular interest that would not normally be sent by our vendors. Ulises purchases material from small presses and micropublishers, in the course of which they set aside copies for Penn. Because of the rare and ephemeral nature of many publications, we receive one copy for the Fine Arts Library general collections and a second archival copy for Special Collections. Our collection is based on semi-regular deliveries from Ulises since 2023.

Contact

Holding Locations

Libraries

Location

31 Phoenix Drive
West Deptford, NJ 08086
Directions

Email

storage@pobox.upenn.edu

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Shelves at LIBRA

Location

220 South 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Directions

Today's Hours

9am - 6pm | Library Hours

Phone

215-898-8325

Email

finearts@pobox.upenn.edu

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Fisher Fine Arts Reading Room

Location

Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center
3420 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
Directions

Today's Hours

10am - 4pm | Library Hours

Phone

215-898-7088

Email

kislak@pobox.upenn.edu

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Students work with the Walt Whitman Collection in the Lea Library