Substitute teacher turns garden shed into used bookstore

Substitute teacher Kevin Stebner moonlights as the operator of a used book store — and you can find it in his backyard.

Situated in the Beltline and run out of a tiny green shack, the inside of Shed Books is illuminated by strings of lights and crammed with literature.

It also features old dishes and a lawn mower, because in spite of the books his patrons come to peruse, it remains a functioning shed for Stebner and his husband, Joe.

And though the space itself might seem quirky, Stebner came by the job honestly.

‘The used industry in Calgary is pretty slim, so there actually aren’t a lot of used bookstores anymore. So this is just a means to have a place to have those books find new homes,’ Stebner said. (Elizabeth Withey/CBC)

He previously worked at as a manager of a bookstore and missed it, Stebner said.

It was this history — and a penchant for book-buying — that would eventually lead to the creation of the little book store.

“I just have a tendency to hoard books in general — even just at home, my house is essentially a big library as well. So it got to a point where books were overflowing, and then I’d bring books to the shed labelled ‘shed books,'” Stebner said.

“But then my husband was like, ‘Well, why don’t you just take those books and flip them?'”

A place to pass books on

Described on its Facebook page as “specializing in curated and curious lit,” many of the titles found at Shed Books were sourced by Stebner himself, who hunts for a lot of his merchandise at thrift stores.

He said that customers also donate their own, because used book stores are increasingly hard to come by.

“A lot of people just bring them in, because they want … another place to pass books on,” Stebner said. 

“The used industry in Calgary is pretty slim, so there actually aren’t a lot of used bookstores anymore. So this is just a means to have a place to have those books find new homes.”

The book collection initially spanned one shelf, but eventually grew to overtake six, and runs a gamut of genres that include contemporary novels, poetry, philosophy, sci-fi, graphic novels, the arts and small-press Canadian literature.

Stebner estimates there are roughly 2,000 books on the shelves in his store for used books. (Elizabeth Withey/CBC)

“Robert Kroetsch is my favourite Albertan, so I always tend to try to put something like The Stud Horse Man into someone’s hand,” Stebner said. “It’s my favourite Alberta novel, at the very least.”

Currently, Stebner said he has a lot of Henry Miller that he is featuring on Instagram, but he regularly highlights different authors.

“I want to make sure that everything in there is good, something I could recommend, something that I know is worthwhile to read,” Stebner said.

As to whether or not he has read every volume himself, he chuckles.

“Of course not. There’s like — what have I got in there? Two thousand books?”

People can visit Shed Books by making an appointment with Stebner through Instagram or Facebook.

With files from Elizabeth Withey and the Calgary Eyeopener.

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