20. You need to pass a book quiz to work at The Strand
Ever wonder how the Strand’s staff seems to know titles and authors off the top of their heads when you ask a question? Well, the Strand makes sure all applicants are familiar with literature before hiring them through a book quiz, added to the application in the 1970s. According to the New York Times, the ten-line quiz involves matching famous literary works to authors, and is mandatory for not just staff at the main store, but those who work at the kiosks, Books by the Foot, and the Strand’s warehouse in Sunset Park.
About 60 people apply to work at the Strand weekly, but only a couple end up being hired. Fred Bass originally presided over the quiz for about thirty years, but then in 2005, a manager, Carson Moss, took over hiring duties and diversified the quiz, tweaking it every three years to include more females and writers of color. Recently, another manager, Constance Fox, has taken over hiring and overseen the quiz, calling it an “interesting challenge” to choose questions that represent literature’s wide breadth.
In a New York Times article, some staff at the Strand remembered the quiz being relatively easy.
Bass, who would choose diverse major works from Homer to Darwin, said he “once did a sneaky thing” for the quiz: “I made one not match. ‘Gone With the Wind,’ and no Mitchell.”
And yes, applicants have also found ways to be sneaky about the quiz—Bass said that some have found ways to cheat on it, including one man who filled out the application and started asking clerks what the answers were. Another man found the answers with his therapist after swinging by to pick up an application. Both men were hired. Others text friends during the quiz.
Naturally, management doesn’t take the quiz too seriously, according to the New York Times, and it’s based on more of an honors system. However, it’s still a key part of the application. Despite its flawed system, the quiz is one way to stay true to Ben Bass’ vision for it as a place for everyone—including employees—who loves books.