City Lights Bookstore: Site Management


City Lights is celebrated both as a place of rich history and as a thriving business that continues to serve its customers just as well as it did when it was first opened. These two functions complement each other, yet it means that there are two different management goals. City Lights needs to be managed both as a business and as a historical site.

To remain a thriving business it is important to work to remain relevant and current in publishing and bookselling, rather than just trying to capitalize solely on the rich history. Ferlinghetti and the management staff are well aware of this and are fully integrated into the modern contexts of both the publishing and bookselling realms as they continue to give voice to many who may not be heard elsewhere. The current executive director of the bookstore and editorial director of City Lights Publishers said in an interview with Publishers Weekly, “We can’t stay mired in history—and never wanted to. We’re not going to just get by because we’re the ‘vaunted City Lights.’ The bohemian bank account isn’t really getting many deposits these days.” (Wilner 2007) City Lights continues to publish and sell current, cutting-edge works that one can’t find many other places.


Currently the role of managing the history largely occurs off-site at the Beat Museum across the street from the store. While in City Lights much of the original décor (signs, shelving etc.) is the same and there are photographs and merchandise for sale that celebrates the bookstore’s past, for the most part the Beat Museum is the place that tells the history of City Lights and the Beat Generation through the artifacts that it houses. The museum is not associated in any way with the management of the store and is owned separately. The museum’s collection contains a wide mix ranging from items that the owner, Jerry, has been collecting since his childhood interest in the Beats began and other items donated or on loan from various people, many of whom still live in the neighborhood.

Brandon from the Beat Museum speaks about the Beats

learn more! at The Beat Museum Website:



Posted on May 12, 2011, in City-Lights-Bookstore-San-Francisco. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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