By Margaret Adams

Street view of ThirdSpace

The Cleveland Public Library hosted a Great Lakes African-American Writers Conference (GLAAWC) event during this year’s Cleveland Book Week. One of the featured bookstores was a Black-owned business right here in Cleveland, called ThirdSpace Reading Room. ThirdSpace Reading Room is located at 1464 East 105th St. in the historic Medical Associates Building that was home to Black physicians such as pediatrician Dr. Arthur Burns. The Cleveland Observer stopped by to meet and interview the store manager, Harry Atwell.

Why a bookstore at a time when most bookstores are going out of business?

Atwell said the bookstore, which opened in June, was founded by Mordecai Cargill and Evelyn Burnett. They are both avid readers and have a passion for sharing the experience of reading. They also wanted to give back to the community.  Both live within walking distance of ThirdSpace Reading Room and envisioned a place where the community could come together to talk and share ideas.

Cargill (3rd from left), Burnett (in gold)

When asked about his background and how he came to be manager at ThirdSpace, Atwell said “I grew up in this neighborhood and still live in the city of Cleveland. My work experience includes working 17 years at Cleveland Clinic in medical records and as a patient care customer service representative. I feel this background prepared me for organizing information and dealing with people.”

The books that are in ThirdSpace represent books that were donated from the private collection of a professor. They also include books that were bought from the inventory of another bookstore that was closing. Right now the reading room is fine-tuning its inventory based on community needs and interests. They are also setting up a process where people can come in and order books through them. Besides offering books, they also rent the space out for small events like book signings and small parties. People can find information out by going to the ThirdSpace Action Lab site. Ultimately, it is their hope that people find out about ThirdSpace Reading Room through word-of-mouth, Instagram, and Twitter. They will have a sign out front soon.

Part of ThirdSpace interior.

 ThirdSpace Reading Room is very inviting. They have a very comfortable area for sitting and conversing. On one occasion, TCO was able to attend a workshop on a documentary film and was later invited to attend the last intergenerational luncheon of the season. It was very informative and enjoyable.

It was thrilling to find the younger generation giving back and wanting to encourage reading and conversation in the community. Atwell has been challenged to see if ThirdSpace can engage more of the community’s youth to use their space for gaining knowledge and discussing what they learn with their peers.

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