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UNM senior Robin Babb in front of the Harvest Moon Books area at And Stuff Retail Collective. Babb is the owner of Harvest Moon Books and is currently studying English at UNM.

UNM student bookstore highlights underrepresented communities

 In 2019, Robin Babb, a senior at the University of New Mexico, opened her own independent bookstore Harvest Moon Books in hopes to highlight stories written by underrepresented communities. In the three years since opening, Harvest Moon Books has gone from an online shop to an in-person shop as part of the And Stuff Retail Collective.

Babb strives to make Harvest Moon Books  a place where new and local authors can have a platform. She especially wants to focus on queer and transgender authors along with newly translated English pieces — most importantly, she wants to provide what other stores can’t.

“I don't think people really see or understand that Albuquerque has a literary scene. It exists — it's small, but it's there. We have writers here. We have some really interesting writers doing some really interesting stuff … It is a lens into people's lives,” Babb said.

Growing up, Babb worked in different bookstores around her hometown Houston,Texas and in San Francisco, California. She said it would be fantastic if she could get paid to just sit and read, but having Harvest Moon Books is as close as it gets to that.

“Books have always been really important to me. And yeah, there are some great bookstores in Albuquerque already. But I wasn't seeing anything that I wanted to see here. Something that focused on new authors, small presses, translated works and things like that,” Babb said.

The name “Harvest Moon” came to her from both the Neil Young song “Harvest Moon” and the 2003 Japanese video game “Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life.”

As a full-time college student, Babb said she continues to face many challenges while owning a small business. She, like many other students, finds it hard to balance school along with work. Babb wants Harvest Moon Books to continue to grow through events, despite not having the time.

The COVID-19 pandemic also created additional challenges for Babb. Right after opening, Harvest Moon Books had to close for a while in 2020 due to the pandemic, which put a dent in Babb’s plans for the store. Babb said that she had hoped to attend various bookseller conferences in order to learn more on the trade and seek advice from more experienced booksellers.

“(The COVID-19 pandemic) was hard. It was really discouraging because I had planned in 2020 to go to all of these bookseller conferences … Still haven't gotten to do that,” Babb said. “I feel like I had to learn a lot of steps on my own instead of from anybody else. And I'm sure I'm sure I do things very wrong, because I don't have any other examples to look at. But it's just how I've been doing it for the past three years or however long.”

Despite the struggles, Babb is very thankful for the support she’s received since opening her bookstore, including the New Mexico National Association of Women Business Owners and the City of Albuquerque Small Business Development where she received consultation and various resources to start Harvest Moon Books.

At UNM, Babb is an English major and American studies minor. She has published works in the Weekly Alibi, a retired local newspaper, where she was a staff reporter and editor. She’s also published with New Mexico Magazine and Edible New Mexico, where she mostly focused on food and agriculture topics.

And Stuff, which hosts one of Harvest Moon’s two locations, allows over 20 local vendors and makers at a time and considers itself a place that has “something for everyone,” according to the store’s website and manager Lucy Glister. Harvest Moon Books has been a vendor since the retail collective opened. 

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“We provide a space for vendors to sell their product without the risks that come from buying their own establishment,” Glister said.

Currently, Babb does not plan to move Harvest Moon Books to its own location but is excited to welcome an intern in her team to help her business grow. Shoppers can also find Harvest Moon Books in a secondary location in Montage Coffee & Wine.

“This is about community. Even if I don't always see that community because I'm not always behind the register, they're there and they care about the place and they care about the books. That's awesome,” Babb said.

Babb hopes to continue her education through the UNM master of fine arts program and eventually make a career as a writer.

Annya Loya is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @annyaloya 

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