We embarked on this journey 4.5 years ago to capture the bookstore’s distinctive character and history by documenting it—through photography, interviews with its employees and patrons/members, as well as artifacts and memorabilia.

We're happy to let you know that thousands of photographs, dozens of interviews, almost twenty essays, and eight drafts of manuscripts later, the capstone to this enterprise, a book entitled, If You Weren’t Looking For It: The Seminary Co-op Bookstore, is finally here!

We’re thrilled that this isn’t only a high-quality book of photography, but also includes a written history of the Co-op by Jack Cella, as well as many quotes and stories from the bookstore's local and far-flung patrons.

To order the book ($30), please email or call 773-752-4381.

Book Release Party
Seminary Co-op Bookstore, 5751 S. Woodlawn Ave.
October 15, 2016, 4:30-6pm, Remarks at 5pm

“No coffee, no knick-knacks, just books.”

After 50 years, the Seminary Co-op Bookstore had to leave its cherished home in the basement of the Chicago Theological Seminary.

This marked a pivotal and bittersweet moment in the life of what is widely regarded as the greatest academic bookstore in the world. Moreover, this came after a long period of time when many similar independent bookstores have suffered or been forced to close. The Co-op in its former incarnation embodied – both in the layout of its space and what filled it – the life of the mind and the ethos of its neighbor, the University of Chicago. The importance of the Co-op in the history of the University and for the greater Chicago and intellectual community has warranted a significant effort to document it before it began the next phase of its life, as well as to foster renewed interest in this valuable asset on the South Side of Chicago.

The goals of this project are to produce a historical archive of the Co-op – both visually and audio/written – and to capture a sense of its life, meaning, and importance.

Gifts & Grants

Special thanks to:

  • Uncommon Fund
  • Jack Spicer
  • Festival of the Arts 2012
  • Southside Preservation Action Fund
  • University of Chicago Communications

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Project Directors

Jasmine Kwong is a portrait and event photographer and manages a psychology lab at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where she is also a student in pursuit of an MBA. She received her BA with Honors from the same University in 2006. Born and raised in Hong Kong, China, she also spent part of her childhood in Montreal and Vancouver, Canada, and has been living in Chicago since 2002.

Jasmine & Megan

Megan E. Doherty is a Chicago-based writer and photographer who is passionate about long-form, humanistic storytelling – through both words and images. After a stint in Germany and earning her PhD with distinction from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 2010, she has focused her energy on in-depth journalism that matters. Coming by way of Long Island and Florida, Chicago is now her adopted home.