Our bookstore is a haven in a busy world. You can buy books almost anywhere but how many places can you go where someone knows your name, asks how your teenager did on her driving test and oh by the way, did she like the Meg Cabot book you recommended? Our customers are our friends at The King’s English and new employees quickly learn to consider them as such. And not only are they our friends inside the store, they are often our friends outside of it as well. Salt Lake is a small city and at some level all of us seem to know one another: we coach each other’s children in soccer or math, sit on boards together or march side by side in demonstrations. We attend church together or volunteer together or meet to hike or knit or ride our bikes. And for the most part our booksellers, extroverts that we are (some of us even have a second part-time career such as nursing, psychiatry, law) remain visible, active, connected community members, inside and outside of the door to our store.
As community-minded as we’ve always been, when the chains came to town, we quickly recognized that community was a strength that couldn’t be replicated. We also knew inherently that we were healthier for our community, economically, socially and in every other way than were national chains. But the perception of the public and of government in those days was that bigger was better. In 1997 Betsy Burton, with six other small business owners, formed a business alliance, The Salt Lake Vest Pocket Business Coalition, to advocate for locally owned independent business in our city. They made progress in the city and county, but decided that a broader educational effort was needed. In 2005 Betsy, along with a few other business owners, founded Local First Utah, a statewide organization the mission of which is to educate the public and government about the importance of locally owned independent business to the local economy and the community. Local First Utah has grown to nearly 3000 members and has made huge strides in changing the attitude of city, county and state governments about the value of local. Because Betsy is its cofounder and co-chair she and The King’s English are seen city- and statewide as being at the very heart of community and the very essence of local.
Betsy has also served on national boards that deal with the issue of local, among them BALLE (The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) and AMIBA (American Independent Business Alliance), and she has been active in persuading the American Booksellers Association to brand itself as local. Many of the other booksellers in the store are every bit as active, one the founder of The Utah Arts and Crafts Society and several serving on boards for everything from heritage to literacy, modern dance to writing.
We all give tirelessly to our community, not only individually but as a store. We do book fairs and books talks, lectures and seminars; we sit on panels and sell books at countless events for schools, business and charitable organizations. We are also extremely active in the literary life of the community. Betsy sits on the board for Citywide reads, The University of Utah Symposium for Science and Literature and on the Advisory Council for the Tanner Humanities Lecture to name just a few. Anne is on the board of the Community Writing Center as well as the Selection Committee for the Great Salt Lake Book Festival. We highlight the many organizations with which TKE is involved on our website's Community page: CLICK HERE TO VIEW
The King’s English has always been an active member of another community as well, the community of bookselling. Betsy was a board member and past president of her regional association, and when that association merged with a larger one, Mountains and Plains, sat on the board of that organization. She served on the ABA’s Booksellers Advisory Council and ABFFE (American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression) and now sits on The ABA Board where she has chaired both the nominating and awards committees. Anne Holman and Margaret Brennan Neville have both been active in ABC (which recently merged with the ABA) as well as Mountains and Plains (where Anne serves on the Advisory Board) and both are very active in the ABA. We are a member of the Independent Booksellers Consortium as well and talk to booksellers across the country on an everyday basis about matters of concern from privacy and free expression to the latest technology to best practices.