Word Up is a multilingual, general-interest community bookshop and arts space in Washington Heights, New York City, committed to preserving and building a neighborhood in which all residents help each other to live better informed and more expressive lives, using books as an instrument of reciprocal education and exchange, empowering not only themselves, but their community.

Word Up is run by volunteers from the uptown community. By hosting readings, concerts, screenings, art exhibitions, talks and workshops, community meetings, and other activities for kids and adults, we do our best to support and fortify the creative spirit unique to our diverse, uptown community.

Word Up is a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization Seven Stories Institute, whose mission is to provide necessary books to communities that do not otherwise have access to them, to stimulate discussion of important policy issues within those communities who have the most to lose in the current political and economic crises but have the least access to the terms of the debate.

Word Up began as a one-month pop-up shop in June 2011 on the corner of 176th Street and Broadway, then stayed open for over a year at its original location because of overwhelming community demand. After a new landlord ended the original lease, the volunteer collective continued to distribute books and program events. The collective launched a successful fundraising campaign in late 2012, raising more than $70,000 from more than 800 funders, to reopen Word Up in its current, permanent location at 165th Street and Amsterdam Avenue on July 26, 2013.

Word Up is operated by a collective of 60+ neighborhood residents. Since our founding, nearly 500 neighbors have been trained as volunteers at Word Up. We practice horizontal leadership, seeking consensus as much as possible, though weighting decision-making power to those who will execute the work. The majority of volunteers in decision-making roles are women. Among our diverse group of current booksellers, approximately 30 have taken on additional responsibility as keyholders. At any given time, 6–10 volunteers are under the age of 20. Volunteers hail from USA, Dominican Republic, Mexico, etc. Many are longtime uptown residents, and some since birth. Indeed a cross section of the neighborhood, among our volunteers are people from the LGBTQ community, people with visible and non-visible disabilities, and people from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds.

To reach the general coordination team, please email info[at]wordupbooks[dot]com.

To inquire about events, please see our events FAQ page, and/or email events[at]wordupbooks[dot]com.

To inquire about volunteering, please email volunteer[at]wordupbooks.com to find out the next orientation date. Please include a little bit about yourself. One of the volunteers managers will reply as soon as they can.

Word Up is supported by the generosity of hundreds of community donors. In 2018–19, our programs are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development in partnership with City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and City Council Member Mark Levine; Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation; LMCC; the New York State Council on the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in partnership with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; Partnership for Parks Inwood Parks Grant, made possible by Columbia University; Hesed Foundation; Elephant Rock Foundation; Severus Foundation; New York Council for the Humanities d/b/a Humanities New York.

Thank you also to our generous food donors and community partners: Columbia Wine Company, Coogan’s Restaurant, Crazy Annie’s, Famous Famiglia Pizzeria, Mambi Restaurant, Pick & Eat.


23 responses to “About

  1. Veronica,
    I am impressed!

  2. This is a beautiful and important place. As a Washington Heights native, I’m proud to say it’s my spot:)

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  4. One of the greatest innovations to hit WaHI. What an amazing, inclusive community. You bring hope on so many levels. Thank you, everybody.

  5. Washington Heights is a Blessing for families and small businesses. I will love Washington Heights until the day I die, we treat our community like a perfect rose and the sun shine light on us everyday for Washington Heights to see a brighter future always in George Washington Hills.
    Peace and lots of Blessings to the World.

  6. Word Up is a little glimpse of heaven in the heights: books, music, arts and community. This is peace in action!

  7. I was earlier at your place today. Did I leave a bag of medicine at your place.

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  9. Juan Castro Rodríguez

    Mi nombre es Juan Castro Rodríguez, mi misión primordial es trabajar en pro de la verdadera educación, la cual incluye la superación personal y la salud integral. Estoy muy agradecido de conocer este sitio, ya que el mismo constituye un verdadero insentivo para todos aquellos que procuramos diligentemente aportar nuestro granito de arena en la ardua tarea de eradicar la ignorancia y contribuir al rescate de los verdaderos valores humanos..

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  11. I am the Multicultural Educator from Ghana, West Africa who has been buying a lot of books from your store lately. I felt in love with the place, the concept, the hope and the opportunity that you are bringing to the community the first time I came there. I volunteered as an entertainer/motivational speaker on 6/01/12. Please contact me to come and offer free percussion clinic one day: We will be looking at how traditional music making in Africa is relevant today as a center for building community:



  12. why is there no phone?

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  14. Hello,

    I’m a special ed teacher nearby ( 168th st ) and a coworker saw Word Up on her way to work. Are you open during school hours? If so, we’d love to get involved and strengthen my students knowledge of their community. Please let me know if we can arrange something! Thanks!

    • We open at 3pm on weekdays BUT we are very willing to open during school hours for prearranged school visits. We have hosted many field trips in our off-hours. Please email us at info [at] wordupbooks [dot] com, and we can set something up for you and your students!

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  17. Hello! I was wondering if you have wifi acess? or a coffee shop in your library?

    • We have Wi-Fi guest access. We don’t have a coffee shop, but you’re welcome to bring coffee from elsewhere and drink it at one of our tables. We’re not a library – we’re a bookstore – but you can read stuff in-store for sure.

  18. Just now learning about wordup. Sounds amazing to have in the community! What are some roles of a volunteer? And does wordup intend to open up anytime soon?

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