Occasionally, when the workload was light and I needed to escape the office, I would leave my desk at the main World Bank building and head across the street.
It didn’t take me long after moving to DC to discover the World Bank InfoShop, a small but charming bookstore at the corner of 18th and Pennsylvania, just steps away from the White House and directly across the street from the building where my office would be. I spent many hours in the InfoShop when I lived in the city, using it not only as a place to clear my head and browse the rows of trinkets and souvenirs whenever I needed to quickly escape, but also as a refuge from the busy-ness of the city, where I could hide between shelves and quietly read a book, unnoticed by anyone but the staff who smiled and nodded every time I walked in.
The InfoShop wasn’t a big bookstore, but it was perfectly-sized for the many book launches and social events it hosted and I attended while I lived in the city. Outside of these events, it was relatively quiet, mostly acting as a stop for tourists looking to pick up some flags, pins, notepads, or pens—in all my time there, I only ever saw someone purchase a book once—as they toured through the World Bank and the other major institutions nearby. Because of this relative quietness, it was an ideal place for reflection, for contemplation, and for working. On many occasions, I brought work documents with me to the store, said hello to the staff working there that day, and spent the day perched on the window ledge reading, editing, and writing.
The Washington Post is reporting that the World Bank is considering closing down the InfoShop, and while I understand the reasons and the reality behind that decision, I can’t help but be sad. The InfoShop is more than just a repository of books and knowledge, and even more than just a place to buy some souvenirs on your travels. It is a space to think, to read, to learn, but most importantly, to remember that there is a lot of work left to do to make the world a better place, and that we are all responsible to do that work, together.