CARLSBAD — Along a non-descript portion of Carlsbad Village Boulevard, behind a Taco Bell and a KFC, stands a few bookshelves.
All day, people stream in and out to browsing the shelves for books that are available through a barter and donation program.
Founder of Lhooq Books/Exrealism Sean Christopher encourages community participation and hopes the shelves will create a community gathering space.
“I’ve always wanted to keep it small and have it be everyone’s little secret,” Christopher said.
Until last week, he also operated a bookstore with hand curated vintage books for sale.
The city has temporarily closed the store until the zoning and permitting are sorted out.
The building in which he operates the bookstore, at 755 ½ Carlsbad Village Drive, was built in 1941, which predates the city’s incorporation in 1952.
The city has no paperwork proving what the building’s initial and past uses were so Christopher is hoping to find concrete evidence of what the building served as.
He has heard from residents in the community that it has been a paint store, a distribution center for the New York Times and most recently, an upholstery store.
Christopher spent two years refurbishing the building and upcycling cabinetry and maple wood to become bookshelves.
The closure came after a complaint to the city about signage on the front.
Christopher said there is no official signage, although the western facing wall in the alley has a mural by artist and professional skater Kris Markovich.
The bookstore is unable to get a temporary permit while the city sorts it out because of the complaint.
The closure has put a damper on Christopher’s plans for the space.
He envisions Lhooq Books/Exrealism as a community meeting space that offers learning workshops and possibly hosting an artist residency program.
Workshops have already started at the bookstore. Earlier this year Christopher hosted a paint workshop where the canvas was a blank skateboard deck. For $40, participants were taught a painting lesson and got to keep the deck.
“That’s cheaper than babysitting,” Christopher said.
Workshops are open to all ages and since he has his teaching credentials, he hopes to also invite local schools for some classes.
The bookstore is both a nonprofit and a for-profit store. The shelves on the outside of the shop are full of books that can be taken in return for a donation or for a book trade.
It’s self-policed, although Christopher said it takes a lot of work to maintain.
Carlsbad resident Dawn Henry said she stops by once every couple of months for the booktrade.
“I would be sad to see it go,” she said.
Without the for-profit bookstore, the book trade wouldn’t be feasible, said Christopher.
He’s now working to find concrete proof in the form of photographs to show what the space was used for in the past, since the city doesn’t have any records.
He said the traffic he gets from visitors using the outdoor library has driven out loiterers that formerly made the location a regular stop on the Carlsbad Police Department’s patrol.
For updates on the store’s permitting, visit facebook.com/LHOOQ.EXREALISM.