It’s a nice cruising job, isn’t it? Holding the desk with stacks of books neatly arranged behind, beside and, well, everywhere around you and only occasionally being distracted from leafing through the latest bestseller to chat with a client. The truth is not quite like that, says Tim Jarvis, who is both bookseller and manager of Fullers Bookshop in Hobart, Tasmania. Jarvis has been with Fullers since 2013 and has been its manager since 2019. In 2021, he took over ownership of the business, making him the store’s fifth owner since it opened in 1920. ArtsHub asked him what the work of fighting the books actually entailed.
So how would you describe what you do?
I do a bit of everything. What I enjoy most is talking to people about books and recommending things I think they’ll like, but I also organize a lot of our events program, which is a delight. The most boring part of the job is paying the bills. Otherwise I just try to be the grease that keeps the wheels turning and the staff happy.
How did you start becoming a bookseller and manager of Fullers Bookstore?
In fact, I started as a volunteer almost ten years ago when I offered to come once a week to lead a philosophical reading group. This turned into regular work as a bookseller, and eventually turned into running the shop!
What does your average day/week look like?
The day usually starts with a coffee (we have our own coffee) and I try to catch up on all the emails that have come in overnight. There are usually issues that need to be fixed (misbehaving computers, etc.), then I work in the store itself in the middle of the day, then go back to my emails in the afternoon. I also like to meet people, so there is often a meeting with an author or an editor or someone who gets involved too.
What is the most common misconception about being a bookseller/bookstore manager?
The most disconcerting that comes up frequently is the misconception that bookstores should be quiet, slow-moving places to work. The reality is that we are really very busy and we are often out of breath!
If you were interviewing someone to become a bookseller, what skills and qualities would you be looking for?
The most important thing for us is that if someone comes to pick up a book, they must be happy that they did. Going from there, this means that we are looking for staff who have a good knowledge of the books, but even more important than that are friendly, comfortable and helpful manner.
What’s the best thing happening in the bookstore right now?
There are a few things I could mention, but to be truly parochial I would say it’s the rise and rise of homegrown talent: so many of our bestselling books are Australian, and a large (and growing) part of between them are Tasmanian. The days when we were culturally just a colony are over!