Antonia Daly has won The O’Brien Press Bookseller of the Year Award, commended for personifying prized qualities including knowledge, passion, courage and an ability to find the right book for customers.
Daly is the 26th recipient of The O'Brien Press Bookseller of the Year Award, which is presented annually to a manager/owner bookseller operating in Ireland in recognition of outstanding achievement or an invaluable contribution to the book trade. Winners are presented with "The Elements", a bronze perpetual trophy sculpted by Rowan Gillespie, and a framed commemorative certificate.
Daly, originally from Enniscorthy in County Wexford, studied to be an engineer but after working in that profession, was led by her love of books to open Antonia’s Bookstore in Trim in 2005. In the past 15 years, Antonia’s Bookstore has "grown from strength to strength", according to the award's organisers. For the past seven years, it has been the official bookshop of the Hinterland Festival, which Daly helps to plan, organising events and signings. Daly also runs a book club with young people.
Ivan O’Brien, managing director of The O’Brien Press said: "The world of books has changed a lot since we first presented The O’Brien Press Bookseller of the Year Award for the very first time in 1995, but the core of what makes a great bookseller has remained unchanged: knowledge, passion, courage and an ability to find just the right book for their customer. Antonia personifies these qualities and is a worthy winner in these most challenging times."
Daly said: "It was so confusing at first as I was expecting to have a Zoom call with coffee and chats about books and then Ivan was on my screen asking how things were going in the time of Covid bookselling. When Ivan started reading out what I thought was a letter about me I got really confused until he got to the end and said 'You're Bookseller of the Year!' and all the other faces popped up on the Zoom call."
"I opened the shop 15 years ago in December and didn't realise at the time that I was joining a family of authors, illustrators, publishers, librarians," Daly continued, reflecting on the journey she has had in bookselling so far.
"The book community is a huge supportive family of people who are always eager to help each other out and do the most important thing of all – to spread the love of reading. I also didn't realise that an independent bookshop becomes a huge part of the community and becomes a place where people come not just to talk about books and reading but also just to come and be with other like-minded people. We have had so many chats in the shop that start with a book and evolve into some of the most interesting/strange/funny conversations. I have so many customers that I now count as friends.
"I love getting out into the wider community and doing school book fairs where you meet the child that says 'I don't like reading' so I always ask what interests they have outside of books and when I find a book that makes their eyes light up and say 'It's perfect', I know I've done my job well and hopefully started a lifetime love of reading."
She added: "When I look back at all of the previous recipients of this award, I am absolutely honoured to be in such amazing company and to be awarded Bookseller of the Year 2020."