«In Italy, Bologna stands out for its civic sense. It’s the ideal city for a niche, LGBTQ+-themed bookstore like ours». In conversation with IGOR Libreria owners Luca Albertini and Raffaele Pancaldi
IGOR Libreria Bologna, one of the few LGBTQ+ dedicated bookstores in Italy, was founded in 2007 as a branch of Libreria Commissionaria Internazionale, which supplied books and magazines to university libraries. Owners Raffaele Pancaldi and Luca Albertini named it after their Jack Russell, but IGOR is also the acronym for ‘International Gay Oriented References’.
«In Italy, Bologna stands out for its civic sense — it’s the ideal city for a niche, LGBTQ+-themed bookstore like ours» Luca explains. «On the other hand, we have to deal with the competition of other independent stores that offer selected material».
IGOR is not only a sanctuary for the queer community — it is also the local go-to bookstore in the Pratello neighborhood, in the historic center of the city. Many gay, lesbian, trans, and gender-fluid readers who come to Bologna, especially from abroad, give IGOR a visit.
«LGBTQ+ fiction is highly in demand, but as a specialized bookstore, we also attract students, scholars, and researchers who turn to us for non-fiction. Some clients are interested in graphic novels and comics, and some others look for books on photography and gardening» Luca says.
«As we’re known for accepting requests, our clients know that we can provide them with any book on any topic, as well as DVDs, CDs, and vinyls».
«The book that shaped me is Memories of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar. Two contemporary authors I suggest are Gilberto Severini and Edmund White. As for cinema: Querelle de Brest by Rainer Werner Fassbinder».
In Luca Albertini’s eyes, IGOR is equally popular among all generations, and as much as other bookstores: «Italy has a low percentage of readers. The difference between generations is in how they read; the younger the reader, the more familiar they are with the internet and online shopping, not only because it is convenient, but also because it caters to the ‘I want it all and now’ philosophy».
But IGOR Bologna did not bear the impact of internet and online sales unscathed. «Despite resistance from Italian publishers, the ‘Law on Books’ enacted in March 2020 hinders both online sales and large retailing by offering the same discounts».
In order to cut expenses, Luca and Raffaele moved their bookstore from via San Petronio to the new location in via Santa Croce, a space they share with two other enterprises: an urban garden and an accessory design shop. IGOR’s succession of metamorphoses to adapt to the market was tailored to the diversification of their offer; they began hosting events in their store and in other venues.
All events have been suspended due to the Covid-19 lockdown, but at the moment Luca and Raffaele are organizing online meetings with reading group Grulle. During the quarantine, IGOR only remained inactive for a short time. In March, while still closed, its owners started a free delivery service covering the whole city of Bologna. IGOR was able to reopen its doors on April 14th, although with limited entry. «Even delivering by bike, we’ve been faster than any online sales platform. We revolutionized our daily workflow, and we’re now deciding what our next move will be».
Via Santa Croce, 10/ABC