There’s a sign ready to go up at Annie Folk’s new North Perth bookshop, “The Language Centre: Serving Perth since 1982.” That’s a lot of book-selling experience.
I interviewed Annie back in 2013, but in 2014 she had to close down her Leederville bookshop (and go online only) with a month’s notice, when the premises were sold. She also had to move thousands of books into her (average sized) home. Now she’s opened up a physical shop again, and I called in to ask her a few more questions.
Annie, any advice for people trying to run a bookshop from their home?
One word: don’t! It’s as simple as that. Unless you have a huge home, you find that your house is not your home. It wasn’t just like having a ‘home office’ – the whole house was filled with books. We were falling over them!
Has the move back to a ’shop’ been a good one?
There was a lot of work involved – and I moved and unpacked every book myself. As you can see, I’m still sorting them. But it’s wonderful; I love being surrounded by books, and by all the little decorations I’ve collected over the years. It’s fantastic.
What’s different this time?
No staff – which is why I’m only open by appointment. In normal retail you sit and wait, but my plan is to get out and do some more teaching. I’ve been missing the student contact and I want to use the resources more. Of course there are plenty of other things to do: visits to schools and libraries, conferences, promotions, updating the web page, trips to the post office, getting things on my data base…but I’m sure I’ll find a bit of time to teach.
How many languages do you have in stock?
I know it was 130, but that may have dropped a bit now. Of course, the coverage isn’t equal. For some languages I’ll have shelves of resources, while for others, just a few dictionaries or phrase books. I love the variety – the other day someone came in, showed me some writing, and asked, ‘What’s this language? Do you have anything in this?’ I was able to tell her that it was Tigrinya, and find her a dictionary.
Perfect! Who else comes to the Language Centre for advice?
A huge range of people: obviously teachers and tutors, but also people who want to learn a new language themselves, either for fun or perhaps urgently, for an overseas posting. There’s often a story behind what they’re doing – maybe it’s part of their family history – and I find that fascinating. I’ve also been doing this a long time, and I know a lot of people, so I sometimes find I’m meeting an old colleague’s kids or grandkids, which is a great way to catch up on things.
Is there a down side to this job?
The only bad thing is that lack of student contact. I think ‘once a teacher, always a teacher’, so that really is something I want to do differently.
What excites you in the new resources area?
With books, I can’t really have favourites – at the moment I think it’s the technology that’s exciting, especially simple technology that students and ‘non-techy’ teachers can operate. I think hands-on activities are so important for learners. You can see that out in my display room, I’m exploring using the Story Sequencer, where you can record your voice with one press of a button. The other thing I’m playing with is Bee Bot, which teaches children coding.
Coding? Does this count as a new language?
Well, it’s big in general in the school system, and that means it has to be carried through to the EAL/D learners. So anything that can make coding tangible is going to help those learners understand.
That’s true of all the non-book stuff I carry: the flags, posters, toys, games, stickers, DVDs. I always want to use things like the talk balls with students myself, so that I know I can recommend them for adults as well as children. You always need another way to introduce or review language – and if it’s not fun, students aren’t going to learn!
(NOTE: If you’d like to take a look at some of that fun stuff, you can watch a video of Annie demonstrating, thanks to AISWA.
How can people get in touch or organise to visit?
Call me or email (go to the Language Centre Bookshop website for details), find me on Facebook, or on LinkedIn. The shop is only 7 minutes from the city, and buses go past the front door. There’s plenty of parking round the corner, in Kadina Street, and I have a customer parking spot under the building – just go down the laneway.
I’m saying ‘make an appointment’ because I’m happy to meet at a time that suits people. However if someone is going down Charles Street and wants to call by, they’re welcome to try the door and see if I’m here! (I’m number 333A.)
Thanks, Annie – good luck with it all!