A passionate bookseller's World Book Night story

05 July 2017

By Leilah Skelton, senior bookseller at Waterstones, Doncaster

As booksellers, we relish the feeling of getting books into hands, and especially so when when we know that we are opening a world of reading to someone who has yet to discover its benefits. In many ways, it’s World Book Night all the time when you work in a book shop, but it’s undeniably true that as booksellers, we mostly interact with people who are already book enthusiasts, and already familiar with the effect a good book can have on an individual. The greatest power of the World Book Night initiative, as I see it, is to take books further than their usual reach.

What we did at Waterstones, Doncaster

This year, at my branch of Waterstones in Doncaster, we decided not only to encourage our customers to follow the idea of giving a book to someone who wouldn’t necessarily have access to books, but also offered our store as a physical space to act as a link between giver and receiver, with a clear focus on local community betterment:

Option 1: Buy a book and share it with someone who wouldn’t discover it otherwise.

Option 2: LET US HELP YOU TO HELP OUR LOCAL COMMUNITY. Purchase a book of your choice with us – fiction, non-fiction, or children’s – and a bookseller will get it into the hands of someone in DONCASTER who’d appreciate it. This year, we’re reaching SCHOOL LIBRARIES, CARE HOMES, THE HOMELESS, and many others in our town.

The uptake was encouraging. The feedback that I received from pictures shared on social media of our sandwich board advertising was positive, and I encouraged other booksellers who liked the idea to copy our approach if they wanted, as the really positive thing about the idea is that it could be applied to any bricks and mortar bookshop – from chains to independents, big or small.

The process we adopted not only allowed an even distribution across the local organisations that we intended to support, but also benefited the store with sales, and provided a link between giver and receiver for those that wanted it. There is a strong desire amongst residents here to affect positive change on their own doorstep, and in essence, we simply positioned ourselves as enablers of this process.

Next year

Next year, thinking about ways to improve on our approach, I’ll give us a longer lead-up with the sandwich board, and expand the advertising onto posters or leaflets. I’d also like to provide bookplates so that our customer has the chance to leave a personal message for the book’s recipient. The organisations that we donated to were right for our town, but this could be tweaked to suit the specific needs of any local community.

Practically, we had to keep the donated books separate from the regular shop stock, and have a bookseller willing to do the legwork at the end of the drive to get the donated books out to the selected local organisations, but that small amount of effort was worth it to push those books out further than our usual shop-floor reach. And really, isn’t that what World Book Night is all about…?

Get involved

Do you work in a bookshop? Get your store involved in next year’s World Book Night by offering customers the chance to donate purchased books to the local community.

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