On the corner of Duluth Avenue and St-Laurent Boulevard, a hidden treasure of Montreal has been lying low for over 25 years: Librarie Wescott. The small, independently-owned used bookstore has an unbelievable collection of works on topics ranging from Buddhism to Italian geography—a disarray of texts that is almost unbelievable at first sight. Piles of publications top every possible surface, creating a maze of literature to investigate. Decorated with an array of knick-knacks like plants, stuffed toys, and airplanes, the bookstore has more character than most others in Montreal.
For Alex Yiannoutsos, U3 Arts and a regular customer at Wescott, the bookstore is more than just charming—it’s a gateway to another world.
“[Librarie] Wescott is a disorganized mess of just books,” Yiannoutsos said. “From the floor to the ceiling, every inch is covered [….] You don't know what you'll pick up or where it will transport you, so the store is just a mode of transportation to this other world.”
As a used bookstore, Librarie Wescott is able to offer low prices that appeal to the Plateau’s student population. While the store offers a limited selection of textbooks and specialized books, most students come in to find something to read for pleasure—and the students who shop at the library play a crucial economic role, according to Terry Wescott, owner of the bookstore.
“Without students, I don’t think the bookstore would survive,” Wescott said. “[The bookstore scene in Montreal is] shrinking because rents are going up [and paying] employees [is] expensive.”
In recent years, Librarie Wescott has faced challenges remaining open. After incurring rent hikes in 2011, Wescott revealed that he is still looking for somewhere to eventually move the store.
“[The] landlord wants to raise the rent, so I may be closing, [but] I'm looking for another location in the area,” Wescott said. “I don't know what the fate of the bookstore is.”
The popularity of e-books and online shopping also endangers small bookstores like Librarie Wescott. Wescott used to sell books online, but after the 2008 economic crash, sales dropped, and their online store shut down. Wescott hasn’t attempted to re-open it since.
Despite the convenience of online bookstores, it is hard to replace the feeling of flipping through the pages of a physical book. And though Amazon and Indigo may offer publications delivered right to your door, the uniformity of chain retailers lacks the charm of an independent bookstore and misses out on the character and history of used books, something Librarie Wescott embraces.
Among the store’s vast collection of novels to atlases to cookbooks, history and classic literature are the most popular choices. Since they are close to the owner’s heart, those two genres tend to take up the most shelf space. And while not everything sells, there is something for everyone at Westcott.
“I love books,” Wescott said. “Everyday I’m getting in new books [….] I always keep books until they get sold [….] Maybe the right person [for the book] will come along [….] Sometimes I keep a book for 10 years and then someone comes along and says, ‘Hey, this is just the book I was looking for.’"