Just yesterday, San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore, the last remaining outpost of the legendary Beat Literary movement was on the verge of closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bookstore initially closed per city and California state guidelines on March 16.
But in some spectacularly good news, an email on Saturday from the San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore’s CEO and Publisher Elaine Katzenberger, the store has been saved by a GoFund Me Campaign launched yesterday that raised $414,673 of a $300,000 goal.
The email reads: Thank you so much! An update from Elaine Katzenberger, CEO and Publisher of City Lights Books, after just a day and a half of our campaign…
I’ve just returned home from a trip to North Beach. It was time for my weekly visit with Lawrence, who lives just a short walk from City Lights Bookstore. I wanted to tell him what I could about the absolute torrent of love and support we’ve received since the launch of this campaign just yesterday morning, but to be honest, I found it impossible to describe. How can I ever articulate the impact of seeing a community of people from all around the world respond so immediately and enthusiastically to our call for help? Especially now, when so many people are thrown into their own financial and existential insecurity? Knowing that City Lights is beloved is one thing, but to have that love manifest itself with such momentum and indomitable power, well, that’s something I don’t quite know how to find words for. We sat in silence a while, and then Lawrence asked me, “When is the store going to open up again?” and I had to say, “We still don’t know… nobody knows what happens next…” and then we sat in silence a while more.
After I left him, I went over to check on the bookstore. I’ve been going by the shop every few days, ever since we had to close the doors. When I get there I flip on all the lights and greet the stacks. I walk through the three floors of that sweet space and I speak to it like an old friend. Ostensibly, I’m there to make sure that nothing is amiss – what about that leak in the basement, it’s been raining again— but really I just want to drink in as much as I can, to breathe that air and take it home with me. And I’ll admit, when I’m there I have pangs of nostalgia about how normal it used to feel to just show up for work each day and assume that would never end, and I worry about how long it might be until we can all come back, and I worry that it could take a long time, or worse, maybe we humans will never be able to gather like that again…
But today is a triumphant day, and I was there to put signs in our windows that say THANK YOU FOR ALL OF THE LOVE AND SUPPORT!!!
I want everyone to know that we are incredibly grateful. And we’re so proud and honored.
The fiscal support we’re receiving here will help stabilize us for the next couple of months, and that will enable us to begin planning for the future. That’s critical. But beyond that, the outpouring of love we’re receiving is invaluable. I’ll tell you honestly that we’re all feeling a little giddy from it right now, and though there is a TON of work to do, this puts a strong wind at our backs. We’re taking today to breathe that rarefied air, and then tomorrow it’ll be time to roll up our sleeves again to try to find the way forward beyond this crisis. That uncertainty still looms, but we are all SO GRATEFUL to have reached this point. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!
I need to add a note here to say that we’re going to keep this campaign active for as long as there is interest in supporting us, and we will be extremely grateful for any additional funds. Although we’ve reached our goal quickly, we are still on unstable ground, and the truth is that we’re not used to asking for help, and so we set a rather modest goal. Anyone who would like to support us further, we encourage you to please do that, and please continue to pass the word. We’re committed to finding a way to bring City Lights forward, and the support we receive here will help us do that!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart,