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Boonsboro bookstore is a throwback

BOONSBORO — There are those who believe bookstores — the ones that offer reading material in the paper and ink variety — will one day go the way of vinyl records.

Bookstores will become dinosaurs.

Hardcovers and paperbacks will vanish from the shelves and the space will become little more than a café and digital connection point, or worse, another empty retail box with black-covered windows.

E-books and e-readers are what the public want, doomsayers proclaim. And the small players — the neighborhood bookshops — will eventually be squeezed out of the picture.

They obviously don’t know much about the customer who supports those small businesses, Janeen Solberg will tell you.

There is the satisfaction of walking into a room filled with a tumble of books — a place where you can relax, browse and be reminded of a good story.

It’s a place where a knowledgeable staff can discuss your literary preferences and make the right recommendations.

And, here, you can experience the tactile pleasure of reading a real book, Solberg said.

As manager of Turn the Page Bookstore, housed in a pre-Civil War townhouse along Boonsboro’s North Main Street, Solberg said there is a special relationship between the independent shop and those who step through its doors.

It’s a place to buy books, of course, but it’s much more, she noted.

It’s a community gathering place, where you can get a cup of coffee, be part of a book club, purchase unique gift items made by local artisans and even enjoy an occasional Girls’ Night Out, with hand treatments, champagne and the opportunity to mingle with writers and craftspeople.

The shop, owned by Bruce Wilder, husband of award-winning author Nora Roberts, also is known for its regular book signing events, featuring Roberts and other best-selling writers.

It’s not an easy job making it all happen seamlessly.

But it’s a job Solberg loves and does well — so well, in fact, that she recently was named the Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year, a recognition given annually by the Romance Writers of America.

The national award honors the one individual who provides outstanding service to romance readers and demonstrates notable support of romance authors and the romance genre, according to RWA’s website.

Solberg will receive her award at the 2012 RWA Conference in Anaheim, Calif., this month. More than 2,100 published and aspiring romance writers, editors, agents and other industry professionals are expected to attend the event.

“I’m incredibly proud to receive this award and represent Turn the Page Bookstore; not only Nora and Bruce, but our staff,” Solberg said. “We’re a small team. But we have a big love of romance. We value the industry and the bricks and mortar stores that are putting books into the hands of readers and providing a sense of community in our neighborhood — be it the streets of Boonsboro or our friends around the globe.”

Solberg doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t enjoy books and, according to her mother, started reading at a very young age.

“But the book that triggered reading as a daily habit for me was a story called ‘The Toothpaste Millionaire’ by Jean Merrill,” she said.

With a love of the written word, it was only natural that Solberg would get her master’s degree in literature and become a high school English teacher.

“When I decided to leave teaching to raise our children, I found myself on the local library board with Nora’s husband, Bruce Wilder,” the Boonsboro resident recalled. “We hit it off and that turned into just the kind of part-time job that fit my schedule at the time.”

Over the years, Solberg became more involved in the operation of the store. She has learned to wear many hats — from coffee maker to event organizer. But all aspects of the job are rewarding, she said.

While the store carries a wide genre of books and welcomes requests from customers, romance remains one of the most popular reads, she said, especially with all of the subgenres of romance — historical, paranormal, classic romance, contemporary, magic and more.

Solberg said she’s come a long way from “The Toothpaste Millionaire” — even though she did track down the book and now carries it in the young reader section of Turn the Page “as a reminder of how reading really does open doors.”

Today, “it’s mostly literary fiction for me,” she said. “But, like clockwork, every few books I get itchy for a good romance. And I know just where to find one.”