Connecting the different owners of a used book is an exciting idea

My thoughts at the end of the first phase of Books for Free Stratford


Careful attention on display despite temporary setting

The first phase of the Books for Free project in Stratford is over.

Everybody’s adapted well to not having much furniture. When you have to make do with just tables, or in our case the floor, to display books there’s perhaps even greater focus and less decorative distraction for hard-working volunteers and book-searching visitors

Of course even Books for Free centres can benefit from some element of visual merchandising. The centre is in three actions which share the same central aisle which runs from the entrance all the way to the back.

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For now the front third has been designed in a minimalist way so as not to overwhelm first time visitors who are still perhaps running the 3 books for free concept through their mind and wondering if it’s really true

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The middle section is displayed entirely on the floor and contains all of our non-fiction. We have art, biography, cooking, gardening, health, history, reference, religion, travel, and sport. In other words books full of knowledge that speak for themselves.

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Then in the rear we have kids books, classics, plays, and poetry as well as a big collection general fiction some of which occupy the few bookshelves that we had kindly donated to us. Thank you.

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We are also very grateful for our sofas, and (so we could eventually give the carpet a necessary spruce) our vacuum cleaner, all of which has been donated since we opened four weeks ago.

Saving used books embraced from the start

Having a poster advertising for volunteers in the window of premises waiting to open for two weeks didn’t compare with having the same poster in the window of an open centre. We had a new volunteer start with us on each of the four days we were open during our first full week – we opened last Tuesday after a trial afternoon open the week before – What’s more it’s expected to repeat this coming week. Note that we will be open every weekday with the exception of this Wednesday.

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Healthy Planet Stratford Centre volunteers and visitors mingle among the books during our first week.

We’ve had responses to our online ads and through the Team London website as well as potential volunteers offering to join the team in person at the centre.

Every one of the volunteers is on their own journey – each of us with our different backgrounds, at different stages of life – yet what’s been tremendous is the way everybody without exceptions has so far given their all to the project.

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Sorting the fiction has got underway.

In some cases where English isn’t a volunteer’s first language that hasn’t been a barrier too great to conquer. It almost feels like the fact our books are used, or in other words have their own unique past, that there’s a healthy connection which has been a positive factor to highlight from the first month of the project.

We are opening today from noon

The time has come (finally) to announce that the doors of Healthy Planet Stratford will be opening to visitors for the first time this afternoon.

It’s taken the first half of the month to reach this stage – admittedly too long considering how most of the books arrived at once and we still have very little in the way of furniture.

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The view inside Healthy Planet Stratford from the entrance.

Without bookshelves becoming available for us to use we’re opening with the look of an even more temporary set-up than I had hoped and expected. Over the past week there’s been barely any progress made, other than making the books look presentable in boxes, so we could with hindsight have opened last week or even sooner.

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Our still very small team of volunteers have worked hard considering the limited resources and uncertainly about what might or might not arrive at the centre.

At this stage I should remind everyone (and myself) how Books for Free centres are unique in that none are shops – all the books on offer here and at all the other centres across the country are FREE (up to three books per visit.)

We look forward to welcoming you, and hope many of you like it enough as well to become involved in this project in the longer term while we are based in Stratford.

The books have begun flooding in

Although if we were on water we might be in some danger of sinking with the weight.

After we received a big delivery of books from the Music and Goods Exchange (thanks to them), we started slowly filling up the large amount of floor space at Stratford Books for Free today.

In the coming days we should have more shelves and tables, otherwise we’ll have to plough on lining the floor boards so that when we open there’ll be lots to browse and take away.

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Piles of books having to be displayed on the floor.

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Some shelves would make a huge difference!

It’s come to our attention that we might not have been responding as quickly to enquiries from new potential volunteers. So if you have applied to help us already we will get back to you just as soon as we are able. And please continue contacting us if you would like to help out or just get more info about Healthy Planet’s Books for Free Stratford Centre. You can also now follow us on twitter @sensiblydressed

Opening of book sharing centre in Stratford is getting closer

We can’t run Books for Free without books, but equally of course we need people for Healthy Planet Stratford Centre to be a success. We will be opening very soon (hopefully next week), so if you’re in town pop down to see us, and perhaps you will find up to a maximum of three books you would like to take home for free. Or perhaps you have some books at home you were thinking of giving away. We’d be very grateful to receive any donations. Check back here for an announcement on which day we’ll open.

Here are the first photos from inside what’s soon to become Healthy Planet’s Books for Free Stratford Centre, in London E15.

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First bookshelves and books arrive. That’s a window display in the background that needs some work!

Very importantly we also need volunteers to help run the centre – otherwise we can’t be open. So if you are interested in books or green issues, and like helping people at the same time, do contact us about volunteering in Stratford. You can tweet us @SensiblyDressed or send us an e-mail Or if you don’t live in the area check for your nearest Books for Free Centre, and e-mail if you would like to help out.

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Boxes and boxes lining the floor by the entrance.

And here’s the empty unit before the books began to arrive.

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Looking from the back of the unit towards the entrance in the distance.

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Large space off to the side, which before would have been an area for staff only.