Amidst Oscar snubs, diversity in Hollywood shake-ups, and the #OscarsSoWhite social media conundrum, Essence has …
Reading has always been fundamental, but the leisurely pastime has now been linked with the latest in subscription box crazes. Even though the likes of BirchBox, BarkBox, CurlBox, and GlossyBox may ring a bell — Call Number Box now enters the mix — donning a fresh new perspective highlighting adult black literature, and specially curated by librarian and University of Illinois doctoral student, Jamillah Gabriel (pictured below).
Our discovery of Call Number Box was unexpectedly casual. A coffee meet-up with a fellow writer turned to chats of cool finds and trendy knacks that were not yet mainstream. Following another sip or two of joe, the cultural convo took a turn as our guest introduced the box that now piques the interest of Inspire N Style.
Being the self-proclaimed bookworms that we are, we immediately stalked the latest startup, only to fall in love with the concept — creating a desire to learn more on what would eventually become our latest addiction.
For starters, Call Number Box was far from anything Gabriel intended to manifest. A former librarian for Purdue University’s Black Cultural Center, Jamillah naturally possessed a flair for good reads. Unknowingly, the purchase of a children’s book subscription service for her niece, would spark what would later become the growingly popular Call Number Box.
“I just remembered thinking, I wish that there was something like this for adults,” Jamillah said. But that’s as far as it went. Jamillah returned to business as usual until an unfortunate surgery drifted her away from work and right into solitude, where the thoughts of entrepreneurial endeavors resurfaced.
“The idea was ruminating…and that’s when I decided that I was going to pursue it and start something. I wanted it to be about black literature,” Gabriel admitted. “Because that’s what I was already doing at the Cultural Center…overseeing the library there. My [box] was the first to be dedicated solely to black literature and for adults as opposed to children.” And a dedication to black literature it became.
“My [box] was the first to be dedicated solely to black literature and for adults…”
For those familiar with the call number system, Call Number Box’s service is rather nostalgic and an ode to all things library-oriented. The logo lends itself to symbolism, as it is the actual call number for black literature. However, with the boom of technology and the ultra-reliance on digital media — one has to question whether libraries, call numbers, or any reference thereto are becoming extinct.
“Some of the media about how libraries and librarians…are not going to be needed anymore is really false,” Gabriel stated. “There are plenty of people visiting public libraries because there are a lot of people who can’t actually afford to buy a book. Public libraries are community centers as well as a library and are still heavily in use.”
Despite any arguments to the contrary, the several hundred subscribers to Call Number Box adore Gabriel’s expertise and rely heavily on the multi-talented librarian when determining their next read.
“There are people of course who subscribe who already know a lot about literature and this is an additional thing for them, and then there are people who really don’t know a lot about black literature and want to know more or don’t know where to find authors – and that’s another issue altogether.”
While the diversity of black literature at publishing houses lacks transparency, Jamillah digs deep to find the latest in Call Number Box finds and makes it her mission to highlight the best and the brightest in African-American, African, and Caribbean authors in the areas of adult fiction, non-fiction, poetry and prose. At times, the bustling entrepreneur immerses herself in at least 4 to 5 books a month pinning the next read, and at other times the number can reach as high as ten per month.
“When it comes to fiction, I’m looking at the author that is not mainstream, that is not really well known – so the more popular authors I tend to avoid because they’re already best-selling authors…they don’t really need exposure or anything like that. I do try to mix it up with other kinds of voices – black voices – cause they’re not homogenous,” Gabriel explained.
THE CALL NUMBER BOX SUBSCRIPTION PROCESS
So if you’re just as curious as we were, subscribing to Call Number Box is really as simple as it seems.
- Pick a genre. Subscribers are tasked to choose between the carefully curated fiction box or the non-fiction box, or as with some subscribers — both. Depending on the subscription, subscribers receive the monthly read, a custom spine label, and a catalog card for organizational purposes (see picture below).
- Next, select your frequency. Select between month-to-month deliveries or save money by choosing the 3-month pre-paid option or 6-months pre-paid (as low as $35 per month).
- Unsure of which one to choose? Select the starter box which ships immediately. It gives you a taste of what to expect and helps you to decide which subscription to ultimately choose.
Subscribers can sign-up at anytime; however boxes ship the first week or the second week during the month. Therefore, even if you sign up today, the first box may not arrive until the following month if this month’s box has already shipped.
However, if you’re just as antsy as we are to try out the service, past boxes are on sale at the Call Number Box gift shop and can ship sooner than later.
As for the future of this innovative service, it is seemingly bright and exceptionally inspirational for those looking to build their contemporary Black literature collection.
Gabriel recently incorporated Patreon into the mix by diversifying her audience and becoming more engaged with her growing community. Through Patreon, subscribers can nab more info on emerging black authors, receive exclusive book reviews, peek new content, and interact with Gabriel herself.
For more on Call Number Box or to subscribe, visit call-number.cratejoy.com. Photos used courtesy of Call Number Box.