"BOOK NOOKS Check out Carlsbad's community libraries, which make reading fun for everyone"
Written by Wendy Hinman
"Carlsbad Magazine" March/April 2017
LHOOQ BOOKS (pronounced "look"). Lhooq, a rare bookstore and underground art venue tucked away on Carlsbad Village Drive next to Garden State Bagel, has a 24/7 "honor system" community library/bookstore outside. The proprietor, Sean Christopher, is also a writer. Good writers surround themselves with good books and so what was Christopher's writing studio became a bookstore. Writers also find it difficult to toss away books so the outside of the bookstore became a lending library for Lhoog's surplus.
"It's an honor system," he says of the outside library---no cards, no overdue fees, no Dewey decimal system. The books are shelved by category. Donations are accepted for the upkeep, as is volunteering, "The system is set up so people in need may take a book and return or exchange it" he says. "Otherwise, we depend on the community to donate money for the books they take in an effort to support the stocking, maintenance and, most importantly, to help support our cause, The Exrealism Project, which supports artists of all mediums and offers workshops, events and academic programs for all ages." Just walking up to the library incites conversation with strangers. You immediately know each other as book lovers. And if you are gazing at the same fiction section the seeds of friendship have sprouted. Christopher grew up in Carlsbad but traveled the world at various times, including as a pro skateboarder, a resistance fighter in Bosnia and Croatia and a writer. He lived in many places, including San Francisco during his undergraduate and graduate studies at San Francisco State University, before coming home to Carlsbad. "I wanted to share my love of literature and help reintroduce good, meaningful literature into popular culture as well as create a culture hub and meeting ground," Christopher says. Gage Chu, who volunteers at Lhooq, exudes that love when holding a first edition of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." The way she handles the book and smiles seems to caress the ideas within. Lhooq is the headquarters of Christopher's nonprofit Extremism Project. "This city is missing authenticity, diversity," he says. "We don't have to be just high-end businesses for tourists and our high-income demographic, but also nurture the up-and-coming and create a place for a diverse demographic and our diverse community." Ezrealism, extraordinary reality, as defined on Lhoog's web page, is "Groupthink, sharing inspirations and passion. We support and showcase new and underground art in all mediums." Lhooq has an outdoor patio for poetry readings, film nights, lectures, music and photography, and also offers gourmet coffee, espresso and tea. When it comes to Christopher's passion for literature, the course of true love didn't always run smooth. The city shut him down with zones and codes, and even after a Change.org petition and grassroots community support, he was still held up by bureaucracy for more than a year. "I couldn't advertise. I couldn't post hours. My hands were tied and I couldn't say anything bad about the city." But similar to Measure A or the Women's March, the people were mobilized and Lhooq is back in business. "It is only just now that we have been able to keep our doors open regularly and start hosting events, but we are 100 percent independent and holding on by a shoe string. Yet, ever an optimist, we believe in our cause and we believe in our community at large and the smaller art community we are trying to help evolve".