Don't be a loan

I  want to describe the ongoing and beneficial spirit of collaboration that exists between Booka Bookshop and Shropshire Council’s Oswestry Library, after reading with great interest “BA urges libraries ‘not to compete’ with bookshops” in the 21st March issue of The Bookseller.

We’re both based in a rural market town and have found that working together, rather than competitively, comes naturally. It helps us to make the most of the shared section of the Venn diagram where book buyers and book borrowers overlap. Examples include:

  • Being key partners in the organisation of the annual Oswestry LitFest, and thus able to plan and host author events for adults and children.
  • Organising an “Oswestry LitFest Recommends” promotion of four new fiction titles in the four months prior to the festival, with copies available—with a guide for readers—to buy at Booka or to borrow from the library. Subsequently, two of the featured authors (Carole Matthews and Julia Crouch) were guests at this year’s festival.
  • The library’s hosting of events for which Booka has been offered an author. For instance, our joint CSI Oswestry event featured crime writer Elly Griffiths in a double bill with a difference—library staff invited a West Mercia Police forensic investigator to come along too!
  • Booka’s hosting of a Summer Reading Challenge character each summer holiday as part of a town treasure hunt for children, organised by Oswestry Library.
  • Forming a judging panel for an annual children’s writing competition, supported by the town’s Rotary Club.
  • Displaying event publicity materials for one another.

There are many advantages to working in this way. Oswestry Library can offer flexible spaces for events, author-friendly audiences and access to its promotional networks, while Booka has its own dedicated fanbase and the ability to entice well-known writers to our corner of Shropshire. In terms of developing communities where reading is treasured and where books—whether bought or borrowed—are valued, our partnership can only be a good thing. Certainly, both bookshop and library are thriving.

Heather Rodenhurst is a team librarian in Shropshire