So Tuesday was my first trip out with Bookcase For All. For those who don’t know the idea is that we provide books for the homeless and vulnerable in York. When people think of the city of York they think of historical buildings, great tourist attractions, and for those of us of a certain age the Blue Peter competition to design a boss for the ceiling of York Minster. Whilst there is no denying that York is a beautiful place and we are very lucky to live here, like most places there are those who are struggling with the high cost of living, and with life in general. York has a high population of homeless and it seems like this is a problem that is just getting worse.
One good thing however is that there are some fantastic organisations within York providing essential items to people in need. The Lunar Project concentrates of period poverty and provides an outreach service twice a week, as well as providing boxes of towels and tampons in schools. Another excellent project around is Kitchen for Everyone York (KEY). They provide a hot meal on a Tuesday night as well as a cooked breakfast on a Sunday. Mr F can sometimes be found cooking sausages and bacon at KEY on a weekend (which is great for me as it means he’s not stinking out my kitchen frying it!)
One idea that had been brewing with me for a while was the idea of providing books for those who would like them. You often see people on the streets quietly minding their own business reading a book. As someone who reads a lot it bothered me that not everyone can afford to buy books, and whilst I am a huge fan of the library, without an address you can’t get a library card. Having done a bit of research there was no specific place I could donate books to try and reach vulnerable people. Therefore the idea for Bookcase For All (BFA) was born, and thanks to KEY a venue was offered to trial.
Everyone warned me not to get too disappointed if I didn’t get any takers to start with, it takes time to build up trust with people. However, my first outing was a huge success with over ten books taken and lots of requests for different genres and themes. What struck me both at BFA and when I went out with the Lunar Project, is the absolute lack of greed of people with nothing. When we were out offering hot drinks, alongside socks and gloves people were only taking items if they needed them. At BFA anyone who came up to chat was told to take anything they wanted from my pile of books, yet people were not just grabbing anything. They were picking up, and looking and choosing just like a proper library.
The other thing that surprised me and really shouldn’t have is that readers are all similar no matter what their home life. They all love books. They love to talk about books – what they have read, what they would like to read, what they are currently reading. People who like to read all like to talk about what they read.
However, the big thing I noticed is how narrow my own reading choices are. As you know I read crime fiction, therefore 99% of the books I own are crime fiction. Therefore all of the books that I had for my first BFA were crime fiction. To me this didn’t seem to be a problem, yet apparently there are some weird people out there who don’t read crime fiction. Luckily I was saved by a donation from a friend which meant I had a much more eclectic mix of books to offer.
What it has taught me though is I’m definitely going to need a better source of books than just my own bookshelves, so if anyone is in York and has any books they could donate do let me know.