Fighting to keep books on shelves. Fighting to keep books on shelves. Alex Nursall

2009 was a year of carnage for print media, and while some businesses look forward to a more promising new year, it's off to an unfortunate start for the Toronto Women's Bookstore at Harbord and Spadina. After 36 years of catering to Toronto's women and marginalized communities, the TWB is in desperate need of financial support, without which it will have to permanently shut its doors.

Janet Romero-Leiva has been a buyer for the TWB for five years now. "There's been a change in buying trends," she says. "Students are buying their books online because they're cheaper. Textbooks, especially from U of T students, are a big part of our revenue." This, in addition to an inability to compete with major book retailers like Chapters and Indigo as well as internal turnover has landed the TWB in a financial crisis.

As a unique, non-proft small business, the TWB has always transcended the functions of a retail store. Savitri Persaud, co-president of U of T's Women and Gender Studies Student Union describes it as "an alternative space that provides a wealth of feminist literature and an accessible point of entry for many U of T students with a budding or keen interest in issues pertaining to a range of subjects from gender, to politics, to equity, to globalization and development."

While the September closing of Queen West's Pages was disappointing, the loss of the TWB would hit closer to home for U of T students, given the store's deep-rooted affiliation with the University and surrounding community. Prof. Elspeth Brown from U of T's history department has been a frequent customer since 2000, "I've sent my students there. Personally I think it's an invaluable resource, their buying has been incredible, most interesting and up-to-date, with academic, trade and independent books"

TWB does not, however, limit itself to the academic community. "Literature is not always accessible," explains Romero-Leiva. The TWB has reached out to and become a hub of activity for marginalized minorities who might not attend a book launch or purchase a book. "One of the biggest things that differs us from other independent bookstores is our commitment to working from an anti-oppression mandate," says Romero-Leiva. This mandate spurred such daring moves as hosting a creative writing course for survivors of sexual abuse, among many other fund-raisers, courses and seminars.

TWB being one-of-a-kind, if it should dissappear the resources it provides would also vanish.

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