Posted 9 months ago
4 MIN READ - Gwendolyn Matthews, the October Loop Employee of the Month, is the heart and soul of Carpe Librum, a beloved used book store in Block 37 run by the nonprofit organization Turning the Page.
If you’ve ever shopped at Carpe Librum, the used bookstore in Block 37, you’ve most likely met Gwendolyn Matthews. Gwen has worked since 2017 as a sales associate for the store, which generates revenue for Turning the Page, a nonprofit organization that advocates for stronger parent involvement in Chicago Public School students’ education. Five (or more) days a week, Gwen is at the Carpe Librum counter greeting customers with a cheerful, “Hello, how are you?”
“I love the customers,” she said. “They are just phenomenal.”
Gwen worked at TransUnion in the Loop for “a million years” before retiring and taking on the job at Carpe Librum. She said at TransUnion, she was more of a behind-the-scenes player.
“I really enjoy working with customers now because when I was at TransUnion, I never interacted with the public,” she said. “So I enjoy the people. I have a lot of regulars I’ve gotten to know over the years.”
And it’s clear that that’s true--during a recent lunch hour in the store, not more than 10 minutes would go by without someone wandering in and receiving a personalized greeting from Gwen. “Did you forget to bring your books to donate?” “Did you finish that collection of children’s stories?” It brought a smile to all the customers’ faces.
Gwen also loves the people she works with, and she has a special place in her heart for the bookstore’s volunteers.
“I get them coffee and donuts, and we chit chat, and they enjoy working here,” she said. “They always text me and say, ‘Okay, Gwen, when are you working? Okay, I’ll be there that night.’ Their time is valuable, and for them to want to spend their time helping out, I appreciate that so much because they don’t have to do it. But they take the time, they do it right, and they really love it.”
The way Gwen describes it, Carpe Librum and Turning the Page feel like a big family. She recalled hurting her knee in an accident last winter, and her colleagues’ reaction brought her to tears.
“The office sent me a card and a gift card, and I couldn’t stop crying,” she said. “It was just so nice of them to think about me and to do that.”
Gwen said her favorite part about working in the Loop is being able to meet friends for brunch or lunch before her afternoon shift begins. When she worked at TransUnion, Beef and Brandy was her go-to spot (“Beef and Brandy was the place!” she said), but now she enjoys trying new things. Nando’s Peri-Peri is a new favorite.
While Gwen would have been perfectly happy to continue working at Carpe Librum with her big family--her coworkers, volunteers, and customers--showing her their love and appreciation, she said it is very exciting to be the October Loop Employee of the Month.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said about learning she’d been selected. “I was like, ‘For me?’ I was so excited. I’ve never won anything before, and I was just too excited.”
“Whenever I work in the store, people are always asking about Gwen and when she’ll be working next,” said Andrew Hertzberg, development associate with Turning the Page. “She has cultivated such a wonderful following due to her sense of humor, empathic nature, and overall warm heart. Our bookstore would not be what it is today without Gwen.”
We are the city that works. And the Loop is at the center of Chicago’s powerful workforce. Chicago Loop Alliance would like to recognize the over 300,000 Loop workers contributing their heart, talent, and tenacity to their job each day. Each month from March 2019 to February 2020, a Loop Employee of the Month will be recognized for being great at what they do, contributing to their community, and inspiring those around them. For more information on award selection, rules and conditions, and a full list of prizes, please visit loopchicago.com/nominate.
Photos by Hummingbird Studios
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