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Ann Arbor 200

AADL Talks To: Jay Platt

When: May 4, 2023 at AADL Downtown Branch

Jay Platt
Jay Platt, owner of West Side Book Shop, c.1993 (Photo by Peter Yates)

Jay Platt is the owner of Ann Arbor's iconic West Side Book Shop located at 113 W. Liberty Street in the historic Haarer Building. Jay shares his journey learning the antiquarian book trade, from his early days working for several Ann Arbor and regional booksellers, including David Kozubei of David's Books, to the rare finds, losses, and lessons learned over his nearly 50 years in business. Jay also touches on the history of the Haarer Building and his participation in other classic Ann Arbor institutions and events, from the Psychedelic Rangers and Ann Arbor’s Medieval Play Festival to the Antiquarian Book Fair.

Historical photos and articles about Jay Platt 

Historical advertisements and articles about West Side Book Shop 

Photos of West Side Book Shop and the Haarer Building

 

Transcript

  • [00:00:06] ELIZABETH SMITH: Hi, this is Elizabeth.
  • [00:00:07] AMY CANTU: This is Amy, and in this episode, AADL talks to Jay Platt, owner of Ann Arbor's West Side Book Shop. Jay recalls his time learning the book trade with several Ann Arbor booksellers. He also talks about his involvement in the Antiquarian Book Festival and the Historic Harrar Building where he's run his bookshop for 50 years.
  • [00:00:29] ELIZABETH SMITH: Thanks for coming.
  • [00:00:31] JAY PLATT: Well, thank you for having me here.
  • [00:00:33] ELIZABETH SMITH: When did you first come to Ann Arbor and why?
  • [00:00:36] JAY PLATT: Well, I first came to Ann Arbor in 1963 and I came to school here. I grew up in Alexandria, Virginia and got accepted at the University of Michigan, though I'd never been to the campus before. When I first got here for orientation in August of '63. I'd never seen Ann Arbor before. Now kids go everywhere, they visit all these camps, I never visited it. I knew about it. My aunt went here back in the '40s, and so I had some connection. We always had a place. I was born in Michigan, and now we have a place up in Northern Michigan. I always consider myself a Michigander. The other reason was because I was going to study naval architecture, ship design, and Michigan as one of the major programs in the country. I got here in '63, went to orientation. I took a bus here with my foot locker. I took a foot locker and I got into the bus station in Ann Arbor, in downtown, got a cab, and said take me to East Squad, wherever that is and off I went. That's what brought me here. I was 18 at the time and interesting year because that was a year, Kennedy was shot and I was on my 19th birthday.
  • [00:02:02] AMY CANTU: Oh my gosh.
  • [00:02:03] JAY PLATT: November 22nd.
  • [00:02:04] AMY CANTU: Wow.
  • [00:02:04] JAY PLATT: I was very interesting. I was going to class, to a chemistry lecture and I think it was in the Nat Sci building at the time. There was a notice on the door that said Kennedy shot. This is about one o'clock the afternoon say Kennedy shot, he hadn't died yet, so the lecture went right on. The professor, I won't say his name, but was not a Kennedy fan, so we went on with the lecture and then shortly afterward we found out that he had died. Interesting because some of the guys in the dorm threw a birthday party for me. I don't know how they knew it was my birthday, I never told anybody, but it was a weird time.
  • [00:02:54] AMY CANTU: A very memorable birthday. You didn't stick with naval architecture?
  • [00:03:00] JAY PLATT: No, I did graduated. I graduated in 1968, and for a few years after that, I did work at the model testing tank in the basement of West Hall as it's called now, but that's where the department was centered, was in West Engineering and it was great. I like Naval Arch, I like boats, I sail and I like old boats. What was interesting about the department at the time was that it hadn't changed a lot in 100 years. We were still doing the same type of calculations, line drawings and things like that, that they've been doing for over 100 years. I had that tradition to it, which I really liked. We had a drawing room, which was up on the fourth floor of West Engine, and that's where we spent a whole semester just doing one drawing, which I still have my copy of. It was a rite of passage into naval architecture. I forgotten a lot of it, of course.
  • [00:04:10] ELIZABETH SMITH: What made you decide to move away from that career?
  • [00:04:15] JAY PLATT: Well, it was the '60s and I didn't really thought I was going to be an engineer for some reason, but I did work in the model testing tank for about two and half years and then the draft came along and that's another whole story because I had an occupational ferment because we weren't really doing military work, but the director was sympathetic. We say transitioned into books was in or the interim in 1970 and I'd just gotten laid off by the university and I answered ad in the Michigan Daily, someone wanted to transfer, they needed someone to sail a boat from Boston to the Great Lakes. I was in between positions at the time. I signed up and two other guys did. We row over to Boston, picked up the boat and, it was quite an adventure. We went down through the Cape Cod Canal, Long Island Sound, up the Hudson River and everything. Then we got as far as Dunkirk, New York, then we hitchhiked back through Ann Arbor it was in time. Anyway, we got the owner of the boat then went down and picked it up and then unfortunately, he got to Kingsville Ontario and somebody rammed the boat and it sank.
  • [00:05:50] AMY CANTU: Oh no.
  • [00:05:51] JAY PLATT: But it was quite an adventure and we had no money at the time. When I got back, if you recall the Ann Arbor Blues Festival.
  • [00:06:02] AMY CANTU: Oh yeah.
  • [00:06:03] JAY PLATT: That started in 1969. It was the first year, my younger brother was involved in founding the Ann Arbor Blues Festival. It was first held which is now called Mitchell Field over by the VA Hospital. It was a great experience. Tickets were $15 for three days, probably all the blues greats. It was an incredible experience. The next year in 1970, they moved over to Huron High School and I was hired as a psychedelic ranger. I was a psychedelic ranger, blue sleeveless T-shirt. I was supposed to keep people from jumping in the game as long as we weren't stoned, I guess it was okay. That was 1970 and then I got into books. I had always been interested in older things for one thing and books, I wouldn't say I was a collector, but I would make a point of getting an earlier edition. If a book, if I liked the title, things as opposed to a newer paperback. I said I'd like to get an older edition. Then in early, I think '71, I believe it was, I was in New York City with a good friend of mine, and he was into book collecting. We visited some bookshops in what's called the Old Fourth Avenue bookstores, which were back in, that were still in existence at the time, and I forgot which shop, and we went to a number of shops, but one we went into and he asked for this book by, I forgot what the title was, but the book dealer went way up in, knew right where it was. I said, how did he know that? There are thousands of books here and now I know, because you know your stock. You have to and that's what got me started. I got back and actually I got a job at what was the student book service which was on South owned by Ned and Fred Sure. I got a job. They were closing the store down and moving over to Ned's bookstore in Ypsilanti. My first job was selling books by the pound.
  • [00:08:34] AMY CANTU: How does that work?
  • [00:08:35] JAY PLATT: Probably had a scale, and you put the books on and probably getting more for him that way than we would have anyway. Ned had bought or was given a lot of books from Tom Hayden when he left, so a lot of books. I wish I kept some of them, because there were a lot of books that he had signed or things like that, maybe even annotated. But anyway we were selling them by the pound to get him out of there. I did that for a while, then moved over to Ned's. I was working in textbooks for a while, but at that point, I was really getting interested in the book business so I would order book cataloges from dealers around the country and subscribe to the AV Antiquarian Bookman's Weekly, which I always had articles and ads about books and things like that. I was learning and I was starting to collect books. After that, I got a job. I was there for a for a couple of years and mainly worked in the warehouse. I actually I worked with Steve Kelly and Shelley Kelly who had Afterwords bookshop on Main Street. We have been friends for almost 50 years now. Then I got a job at David's Books and David Kozubei, if you remember who he was, he was a character. I've known David for a long time. He came over from England in about the mid '60s and worked at Centicore Book Shop. David had eclectic taste in books, so he would order rather obscure titles. I know he worked later at Ulrich's, he worked at Ned's in Ypsilanti. He worked at Borders a bit later on, always for relatively short period of time because he was a little wild about ordering books, but then he decided to open up his own bookshop and raised about $100,000 mainly from donations or people who want to invest in bookstore. He opened on East Liberty, near the Michigan Theatre Building. Actually, he asked me to come along and the person that he had originally hired to handle the rare book department, it was going to be new and used in rare books. David had bought a large collection from the George Wahr Salade who had Wahr's Book Shop.
  • [00:11:03] JAY PLATT: They had a Wahr's bookshop back in the '20s, '30s. They had a rare book department, but when they ordered new books, they never returned anything. They had mint copies of books, first editions and he also ordered sign limited. We had written incredible collection of books mint, never been read. David bought a lot of those he went to Dumouchelles auctions in Detroit and then this guy who he had hired previously got sick and couldn't do it. I was in charge of the rare book department at David's Books and it was quite a learning experience. Books that you would never see and here I was thrown in trying to figure out how to price things and things like that. It was quite a learning experience and David didn't last that long. It was only there a couple of years before. I think people saw the handwriting on the wall. We had strange things, we would open 24 hours a day. He would have belly dancing in the window. Chess tournaments, and sometimes and they also had little businesses inside the shop. A bookbindery print shop, when you -- like Kolosses was first coming on, you had a printing machine you could print up, I guess thesis papers, things like that. Anyway, and I forgot a music shop, a little sheet music shop. David was quite inventive. He certainly try a lot of things and you try what works and what doesn't work. That was era 73 to early 75 and opened the bookshop. Well, I had a friend who said we were having dinner, my ex-wife, and his wife were having dinner when he said, would you like to open a bookstore? He said, well, so we shook hands and he put up $3,000 I put up $3,000 worth of books that I had accumulated. We borrowed 3,000 from the bank. I saw a sign where the shop is now, the Haarer building, and for a commercial space for rent. Maybe now we go back and we'll get a little history of that building. That's important.
  • [00:13:43] AMY CANTU: That'd be great. Yes.
  • [00:13:44] JAY PLATT: The building was built in 1888 by the Haarer family. They had a photography studio there before on that lot. A wooden building and that they won some lottery. I'm not quite sure all the details, but something like $40,000 which just a huge amount of money at the time. Don't quote me on that figure, but that's what I've heard. But anyway, and then they had that building built. It's an incredibly well-built building. The upstairs, they lived upstairs. They imported marble from Italy for the fireplace. It was just an incredible building. Then they had a business there. They actually sold books at one time, many German books, because the west side of the Ann Arbor was very heavily German. We have a window shade somewhere. I haven't seen it for years that says John Haarer Deutschen Book Handler. They also sold a thing called Wonder Salve you would sell that. Later on they got into the insurance business and I can remember when that building, because I was living on the west side and walking uptown. I'd go by that and I'd see it was an old insurance, Haarer insurance agency would be there. In 1975. well, the family at that time, I don't think they lived there because the last member of the family that lived in the building made a deal with the city that if he didn't have to pay any more taxes until he died, he would just give the building to the city. He lived a little bit longer than they thought, but I forgot what year of '72, '73. The city got the building. They originally wanted to tear it down and expand the parking lot, which was called the Klein's lot because of Klein's department store. Luckily, a number of people, some members of the faculty in architecture got together and tried to had the building declared a historical building and saved it. At that point, the city well, obviously kept the building. They used it in 1974 for the Sesquicentennial, for that whole year and they actually published a monthly series of articles about Ann Arbor, which I still have a set or two somewhere. Then after that, the building came up for sale. The city was going to say, well, they were going to keep the building, but they weren't going to tear it down, but they wanted to sell it. Actually, I got a tour of the building in April of 1975, thinking boy, that would make a neat bookstore and the building needed some work. The city had fixed up the downstairs. I think they put a new boiler in. They had the floors refinished and the main floor was fixed up. But upstairs at that point was not in very good shape. It was going to be a closed bid on the building. Not too many people bid on it, but Joe and Caroline Arcure bought the building. They bid I think it was $46,500 for that building. Seemed like a lot of money at the time. That would have been in June or July, I think June of '75. I got together with my business partner at the time and I got together with him. We signed a lease in August, and one month later we opened the bookshop. We built the shelves, put in some books. It seemed pretty empty at the time, but you always wonder where you're going to get enough books to fill a bookshop. Now you know where you're going to find the room to get all the books that are coming in. It does change. So we opened, we had a big opening party in September 21st of 1975, and we made our rent the first day.
  • [00:18:16] AMY CANTU: That's great. Wow. You've been there ever since.
  • [00:18:20] JAY PLATT: It'll be 47 well, be 48 years in September.
  • [00:18:23] AMY CANTU: Can you talk a little bit about accommodating your vision for the bookstore in that space? I'm curious. Other than building bookshelves and that sort of thing, did you find the space? Did you have to work around it? Has it always worked for you all these years? Has it been big enough?
  • [00:18:44] JAY PLATT: It's worked quite well actually because when I first opened, we have three rooms on that floor. When we opened it, we just had the front room open and that's where we built shelves. Then later on I used the middle room for our office. We used the back room for sorting books, and eventually kept adding more, and pretty soon I built more shelves and more shelves and we kept adding. It really wasn't probably within two or three years we had expanded to fill the whole space.
  • [00:19:19] AMY CANTU: Did you find anything other than that shade, any other local history, old artifacts in there at all?
  • [00:19:27] JAY PLATT: Not really. No. I don't recall any. But I do keep an eye out for they had a photography studio and so I do what are called cabinet cards, portrait. I can imagine where they took the pictures. They probably had always have a backdrop and things like, so I keep an eye out for those cards. I do see them occasionally I have a small collection of them. Actually our bathroom in the back of the shop has the windows, which open up to the back room, have amber glass in it, because they use that as a dark room. It's still some remnant, I guess, of its photography studio days. Of course now we have a photography exhibit in our back room along with the art books and music and things like that.
  • [00:20:15] ELIZABETH SMITH: Is that a permanent exhibit or does it retain?
  • [00:20:17] JAY PLATT: Doug Price who works with me he's been with me for almost 40 years now, and so we sell vintage photography maps, things like that. That's another aspect of the story is that back in, you remember, Borders Book Shop? It opened in 1971 as a used bookstore in January of 71. It was upstairs on State Street, near the corner. I'm not sure what's well, I guess it's called North Hall.
  • [00:20:58] AMY CANTU: Yeah, of course.
  • [00:20:59] JAY PLATT: Just his side of upstairs and a little room about half the size of my front room at the bookshop was the first boarders bookshop and I was one of their first customers. I got to know Tom and Louis Borders pretty well. We used to play poker together a lot. But then there maybe a year and moved over to William street and then in '73, moved up to State street and got in the new books that I remember having dinner with them one time at their house. They were sharing a house on the west side and saying, I don't think we can raise two families on the used book business. They got in the new books and the rest is history. During that time, when were they were first on State street, where the Red Hawk Grill is, and then shortly after, they moved across the street where I think Wagner's clothing store used to be. Therefore, they still had the spot on where the Red Hawk is. They wanted to open up another use in rare bookstore. They hired somebody to manage it, and this would have been in January of '75.
  • [00:22:17] JAY PLATT: He didn't work out very well. Tom and Louis approached me in that fall and I just opened. I just been opened and they said we'd like to offer make you an offer. We'd like you to have take over ownership. Half ownership. Actually 49% ownership of what was called Charting Cross Book Shop. I thought about it and I knew them pretty well, but I decided not to do it. I think I'd rather be my own boss and not beholden to them. Even though and I played poker with them so I knew what. So they were, there's still fry, still Tom comes every time he's in town, he drops by. But that's another chapter as we're in there.
  • [00:23:05] AMY CANTU: No regrets.
  • [00:23:06] JAY PLATT: The book business. No regrets.
  • [00:23:09] ELIZABETH SMITH: Was there a lot of competition? It sounds like there was a lot of booksellers around. Were there a lot of other antiquarian booksellers in the area?
  • [00:23:17] JAY PLATT: Well, at that time, the only other one, see I opened in '75. Before that there was the Wooden Spoon Bookshop over on Fourth and Ann Street, I think it is. They'd been there since to late '60s. Before that, there really weren't many other bookshops in town. There was a new bookstore. The textbooks stores and some of them would sell used books too. The Wooden Spoon was the only full time used bookshop in town. I opened in shortly afterward. Others where Dawn Treader is now opened and a few others have open since. At one point we had like maybe half a dozen and we always advertised Ann Arbor Book Town with more bookstores per capita than any place in except a little town in Maine. It only had a few hundred people, had two bookstores, they took the title away. But for a city, we had a large number of bookstores and we still have a fair number. Even though, a lot of them are new bookstores. There's only one Literati down on Fourth and William. But we don't have Borders. We don't have Centicore. All the bookshops that used to be, especially new bookshops are largely gone.
  • [00:24:41] AMY CANTU: You've seen a lot, lot of businesses come and go, but you've been around the whole time, so has the business been fairly consistent and how did you handle, for example, the ups and downs, especially recently, the pandemic?
  • [00:24:55] JAY PLATT: It's been pretty steady. I think I had a business plan and actually the first five years it was right on schedule. Then it leveled off for a while and then it picked up, but it's still pretty consistent. I don't know major ups and downs. The pandemic did obviously effect, and I closed for about three months, from March till we reopened in June, and been opened since. That just actually was it was nice to be closed. I could work on the shop, get everything shelved, and clean things up. I would I would come up for like 6 hours a day and work in the shop even though I wasn't open.
  • [00:25:39] ELIZABETH SMITH: Sorry. Are there any collections that you feel that got away from you and you wish that you could have had?
  • [00:25:49] JAY PLATT: Excuse me. There are always a few. I can't remember. there was, in some sense, more competition. I would come up against other dealers. It doesn't happen as much anymore, maybe because I've been around a long time. I don't know, I don't seem to say I've got a bid against something else. But there have been collections that I've lost. It all balances out in the end.
  • [00:26:14] AMY CANTU: How about any special collections that, when you came across them, you were like, Yay, I got this. Anything stand out?
  • [00:26:27] JAY PLATT: Let me think. Can go back in time. Actually, I do remember some particular items I bought and one that was quite memorable. This would have been in the late '70s. It was in the AAUW Book Sale when it was up in the ballroom of the Michigan Union. They had a section for rarer books. There was this photo album, early mid-19th century, it was $15 I said, boy, this has got to be worth at least a couple of hundred. I bought it. Then it turned out that they were very famous photographers, French photographers from the 1850s. Probably sold it for over $6,000. That was then I wish I had, I wish I got it back. There are adventures like that and that's what keeps you going. a lot of it just you're buying books, but every now and then you come across something that's special. Do you know In terms of specialties? I do specialize in books on the Polar regions in the Arctic and Antarctic, and so I've gotten a number of good collections that way when I used to issue catalogs and I would get people from around the country offering me collections. That was the fun part of the business of buying books because you never know what you're going to find or what's going to come down the pike, and one call can make a big difference anyways. It's still exciting.
  • [00:27:59] ELIZABETH SMITH: What got you interested in the polar?
  • [00:28:02] JAY PLATT: I'm not really sure. I read back, oh gosh, when I was in high school. I read a book that came out called Endurance by Alfred Lansing about Shackleton's boat voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia. I read that probably got me started and so I didn't really start collecting books in that area until the early '70s, and I built up a decent collection and then I started issuing catalogs and I said, I was talking to another dealer who specialized in polar books and he said, it's better to you start selling because you're going to see more and more. You're going to get collections. I have a lot more now than I did a number of years ago, because I bought some collections and things like that. Of course, I also specialize in Michigan history, modern literature and just pretty general subjects. Sometimes a collection comes along that, a section can go from 20 books to 200 books. It can vary. But it's fairly consistent though.
  • [00:29:12] ELIZABETH SMITH: Was the collection of photographs related to the building, the history of the building, or have you always had an interest in photography?
  • [00:29:20] JAY PLATT: Not it's Doug Price who works with me. He's the one that does the photography.
  • [00:29:24] ELIZABETH SMITH: Okay.
  • [00:29:25] JAY PLATT: He's quite an expert on vintage photography and especially the work of Edward Curtis who did the Native American photographs. Actually, we got together and I think it was in '83 or '84 that he came in and said maybe approached me and said, can I put on a little exhibit of these photographs? We think we fixed up, I guess it was the middle room and hung maybe a couple of dozen or so. A couple of dozen had a little reception. Everything had a little write up in the paper when we had a daily paper.
  • [00:30:06] JAY PLATT: Then shortly after we went out to lunch and I said why don't you come on permanently and I get a percentage of what you sell, and I paid him a salary and we shook hands and we've operated under that for almost 40 years now. He managed to shop when I'm not there, and I have a few other employees that deal with the Internet stuff for me. I don't like to deal with it too much, so they do, do that. I've got another employee that works in the evenings and then Sundays when I'm not there. For years, I used to run it myself. I did have some part time employees who maybe one that would come in when I had to get out or something like that. But now anyway, we're still expanding and still in business.
  • [00:30:58] AMY CANTU: It's been almost 50 years.
  • [00:31:00] JAY PLATT: Almost 50 years.
  • [00:31:01] AMY CANTU: You plan to be there through the 50th anniversary?
  • [00:31:04] JAY PLATT: Well, that's my plan then I'll make a decision but I think 50 years I'll be 80. I was 30 when I opened the shop.
  • [00:31:12] AMY CANTU: That's great.
  • [00:31:14] JAY PLATT: Yeah, but it doesn't seem like that long ago anyway.
  • [00:31:20] AMY CANTU: It seems like the perfect job and the perfect building is what it seems as to outsiders.
  • [00:31:26] JAY PLATT: The building actually has been a great selling point. I get people photograph it a lot, they also want to come in and can I take a picture or take a picture inside the shop? Sometimes they have a wedding picture inside the shop. Occasionally, one advertising company used the front of the shop for an ad. I think hopefully they caught the name of the shop in there somewhere and a couple of movies were shot when Michigan had the incentive program for film. We had a couple and then I found out when they did the ad for the Ford car, my sister-in-law was working for ad agency in New York. She said, did you get a site fee? A site fee, what's that? Oh, yeah. You should always ask for a site fee. I approached them and of course, oh, yeah, we'll pay you. Now they don't do it anymore, but still it's a great building and I use it on my business card, on my bookmarks.
  • [00:32:43] ELIZABETH SMITH: I understand you were also involved in Ann Arbor's Medieval Play festival. Can you talk a little bit about that?
  • [00:32:49] JAY PLATT: Back in high school, I was involved in drama. I took a class in public speaking and that was one of the best classes I took. And the teacher also taught English and taught drama and got me into the debate team, got me into plays and things like that. We went in, at one point, we put on a one-act play. This is in Virginia for the one-act play festival. We put on every man, which is one of the early medieval plays and we won the State 1 Act play festival in Charlottesville. Anyway, and then we went into Catholic University to watch some of the Wakefield cycle plays. Anyway, that was the background and I got here in the Naval Architecture department. One of the secretaries, Carol Rosenberg and her husband, who was a grad student here in art history. We got to be friends, and we were over dinner at their house and Chuck Rosenberg started talking about plays, about putting, I forgot who brought it up first that we'd done plays, and he was at Swarthmore and they'd put on a medieval play festival. I said, I was involved in some of that, so we got together, basically just the two of us. He was really the driving force behind it, but I was there at the present, at the creation, as they say. We put on a couple of plays, we rented a hay wagon. We go around from West Park, I think West Park and maybe Burns Park, I forgot. We did that over a weekend, we'd had two or three different locations, and we actually had a live lamb in front of the second Shepherd's play. Then it went on, and then I skipped a year. They went over, he was on sabbatical in Florence. It came back, and we did it again. We skipped 1970, and 71 it started up again. Then after a couple of years, we moved out to the music school out on North Campus in the amphitheater there. Then we put the plays on.
  • [00:34:56] AMY CANTU: Oh, yeah. We have photos of that.
  • [00:34:58] JAY PLATT: Yeah.
  • [00:34:59] ELIZABETH SMITH: How long were you involved in that?
  • [00:35:01] JAY PLATT: I think the last couple of years, I wasn't as involved, but I know at least through the late '70s and I would direct a couple of plays, I directed maybe one or two and acted in most of them.
  • [00:35:14] ELIZABETH SMITH: Can you talk a bit about your involvement in the Antiquarian Book Fair?
  • [00:35:18] JAY PLATT: The Antiquarian Book Fair started in 1976. Bob and Ruth Iglehart had at home bookshop called Hartfield Books. He was head of the Art Department at the University of Michigan, and we got together. The American Library Association was having their rare book conference here in Ann Arbor, and this would have been in July of 1976, and we got together. Well, why don't we get the dealers together, some local Michigan book dealers, and we'll put on a little book fair for them. We rented a room at the league, there were like maybe 12 of us, 10 or 12 dealers, and three days in the middle of July, no air conditioning in the building at the time. It was hot. We had an opening reception on Friday evening. A lot of the librarians did come, but they didn't buy anything or very little. We had two more days of looking around, staring at each other's books. We skipped the next year. Then we said, well, let's try it again. In '76 or '78, we moved it to the union. First in the Anderson room and then up to the Pendleton room, and then finally to the ballroom, where it is now. The early years, the book fair was run by committee. At one point, we misnumbered one of the fair, I think number eight because by committee, we get together and drink wine and everything and we forgot what number it was. We had two fairs that were both numbered number eight in the early '80s or something. When I say the ones coming up, it's the 43rd, actually, it's the 44th, but it's been since 1976 because we skip one anyway, it's a little complicated. It would run by committee for a number of years, and then finally people drifted away, and I've pretty much took it over by default and probably for the last 25 years, I guess. It's a benefit for the William L. Clements Library. We've always had an association with them. Initially, if we had a little money left over, we'd buy a book for the library. It's a very informal relationship, but now it's a little more formalized. They get part of the gate and the people pay to come in. They very enthusiastically have been a big help, and it helps me to rent the ballroom. Got to get a better rate because I'm in association with the Clements Library, and we get dealers from all over the country. Mainly the East coming, a lot of local dealers of course, but from the East Coast, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia. Anyway, I've been doing it so long, it's rote, I know what to do. First time, it's much harder, but once you get it down, it's still fun. It's like putting on a show, putting on a play.
  • [00:38:27] AMY CANTU: Sure.
  • [00:38:29] JAY PLATT: Because once it starts, everything has been done. You've rehearsed, you practice, and now it just runs by itself in a sense.
  • [00:38:38] AMY CANTU: Got you. What are you most proud of?
  • [00:38:45] JAY PLATT: I guess just being there. Well, part of being there that long, being able and still enjoy doing it. A lot of people can't say that, they change jobs or they change careers and so I feel very lucky in that respect that I found something that I really like and a lot of it was chance in a sense. Well, at some point I'd probably realize, and that's when I mentioned first working in books and then going to that bookshop in New York City, I think. Then I turned a light bulb on and said, that's what I want to do. Things fell into place after that. In a sense, opportunities come along and you know when to take them and when not to.
  • [00:39:33] AMY CANTU: Yeah, and all your connections to the different bookstores in town. You've had a lot of connections.
  • [00:39:38] JAY PLATT: Yeah. It's been quite a history. Hopefully, we'll continue.
  • [00:39:49] AMY CANTU: AADL Talks To is a production of the Ann Arbor District Library.