How I leveraged my librarian network and training to create a bookish startup

Read ‘em and Steep Monthly Book Subscription Box

by Jada Jones

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”-C.S. Lewis

I grew up in a home without any books. I was always encouraged to pursue my interests, but when it came to reading, I had no idea where to start. When I discovered the library in my elementary school, it was a free for all, and I will never forget my first encounter with a librarian. Today she would be known as a media specialist, but back in the 80s she was a sweet, patient, bun-wearing librarian.

Throughout my teens and into adulthood I really honed my book suggestion skills. I pride myself on choosing books that I think the individual will relate to, as well as choosing books based on what kind of message they might need in their lives at the time. Years ago I had a friend who was in a horrible car accident and almost didn’t make it. Her life was going down a dangerous path, and the accident had been a wake-up call. While she was recovering in the hospital I brought her The Alchemist to read (which holds the record for my all-time most suggested book.) She later told me that the book completely changed her life.

Subscription Boxes

When the rise of the subscription box began, so did my anticipation. I was so excited at the possibility to have things hand selected for me and delivered to my door. I tried out book box after book box, but while I loved getting a fun package in the mail, I found that I couldn’t really relate to the books and bookish things that they were sending me. The boxes were well curated and thoughtful, however they were almost always YA focused. I love a good YA book (have you read Caraval?!), but I also know that there are many avid readers of adult fiction. I envisioned a subscription box that included independently published books that you wouldn’t find showcased at a major book store or library, written by, for and about diverse people. I also recognized that as a librarian I had a unique opportunity to reach a large group of people who shared my bookish interests and who are passionate about serving the community both locally and globally. While working as a community outreach librarian I began to learn about developing and launching a successful startup from the high school students that our program supported! I read books related to healthcare startups such as The Lean Startup, and developed a similar business model based on the principles of reduced cost and affordability, quality, accessibility, network leveraging, and giving back.

Read ‘em and Steep

So Read ‘em and Steep was born. Every month my team of bibliomaniacs and I will choose a theme that is related to current events, popular culture or holidays, and we will build a custom box around that theme. Each box will include one or more independently published adult fiction book, unique or exclusive tea or coffee, and 3-5 bookish items that follow the month’s theme. The swag will be sourced from small businesses and will often be handmade and always unique. There will be many purchase options ranging from a one month gift box to a monthly recurring . A portion of the proceeds will go to Room to Read, an amazing charity that actively supports literacy and works to remove barriers to learning in developing countries.

The Kickstarter for Read ‘em and Steep successfully completed March 30, 2017 and soon I hope to open up subscriptions for all.



Facebook: Read ‘em and Steep


Jada is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a Masters in Library and Information Science. She also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History with a specialization in ancient Near East history. Jada started her non-traditional library career at the FDA working on a STEAM outreach program for high school students. She currently works in public affairs and analytics. She has a background in archives, records management, and data management and has worked in education, outreach, and project management. She has recently launched a book subscription box startup company which will deliver independently published adult fiction by diverse authors and bookish goods, and supports an amazing organization that strives for literacy for all. She has lived in rural China and loves to travel internationally.

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.