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Bookseller Manifesto

Three Salt Lake City Booksellers Weigh In on May 1 Reopening of our Businesses

Dear Governor Herbert, Mayors Mendenhall and Wilson,

For the safety of our customers, our booksellers, and our community we oppose tomorrow’s premature lifting of restrictions that have helped slow the onslaught of the coronavirus in Utah. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Salt Lake County has risen steadily this week from April 26 with 35 cases; April 27 showing 44 cases; and April 28, 66 diagnosed cases.

Along with the victims of COVID-19, we, our colleagues in books, in retail, in restaurants and in services, are fighting for not only our lives but our economic survival—and that of our staff.

Our businesses are suffering, our sales are disappearing, and our very futures are at stake.

We, proud members of the culture and community of Salt Lake City, are terrified for our own futures and yours.

Over the past weeks we have taken every step we conceivably could to keep our customers in books yet out of harm’s way—from curb-side pickup to local delivery to virtual storytimes. We will continue to do so, and all three of us want to thank our devoted customers for their big-hearted and unswerving support as we developed these strategies to avoid direct physical contact.

Much as we would love to throw open our doors to the public for business as usual on May 1st, we believe we would risk our lives along with those of our employees and customers by doing so. 

For small businesses such as ours, even reliable access to necessary cleaning and disinfecting supplies is still out of reach!

For small businesses such as ours, where the face-to face connection of bookseller and customer is a vital but intimate piece of the bookselling magic for which we are known, the infection with coronavirus of a single employee who has been forced to work openly with the public could bring on the very destruction we have fought so hard to avoid, forcing us to send our few employees home to quarantine and leaving no one to run our stores—even in the marginal ways we now do. 

For small businesses such as ours, the infection with coronavirus of a single customer whose safety we could not guarantee, however effectively we mask and sanitize, is unthinkable.

To suppose we can totally reopen our economy while COVID-19 cases are rampant in our state is magical thinking at best—and an idea we suspect our mayors view with misgivings.

As responsible employers we resist the idea of putting our booksellers (or our customers) at risk, however much we long for the return to a normal world. 

Therefore we, Ken Sanders Rare Books (, The King’s English Bookshop ( and Weller Book Works ( beseech you to allow local businesses to do businesses in safe and thoughtful ways rather than throwing our doors open to the public before it is safe to do so.


Ken Sanders

Betsy Burton and Anne Holman

Catherine and Tony Weller