The shop that could change Ireland: readers respond
You outline what a community bookshop could do for the rural towns you live in
Neil Paul, manager of Books@One, Louisbourgh, Co Mayo. Photograph: Enda O’Dowd
Last month, The Irish Times published a story on a bookshop, Books@One in Louisburgh, Co Mayo. Established in August 2016, this is a community bookshop.
Books@One was the idea of philanthropist Declan Ryan of the One Foundation (son of the late Tony Ryan, founder of Ryanair). Declan Ryan had long holidayed in the area, and Louisburgh has never had a bookshop before. As a contribution to the community, he established the business with his own money. The One Foundation owns the building, pays the manager’s wages, and the hope is that the business will break even in the near future.
The Louisburgh shop, which already has been a remarkable success, is a pilot project for the One Foundation. They are exploring the possibility of opening other community bookshops in rural areas that don’t already have one.
The Irish Times asked readers to nominate towns and villages where they would like to see a possible Books@One. This is an edited selection of some of the responses.
Eileen Gillen, Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim
We have been living in Manorhamilton for 10 years and as keen readers have always felt the lack of a bookshop. At present it is not possible to buy a book in this town even though it is the second largest town in Leitrim. A community-based bookshop/social/cultural education space could have the potential to bring people together but also introduce books to a generation who are at risk of growing up without this exposure.
I have long felt the need for a space in which a love of books can be passed on: through readings or simply through simple conversations around books and recommendations. But mostly, I feel a need for a space that is intergenerational; where the young can learn from the recommendations passed on from older members of the community.
Manorhamilton lacks a space where people, particularly young people can meet and engage in conversation. This is all the more important for those who are not active in sport and therefore the sense of belonging that goes with that in small communities.
Áine Ryan O’Connor, Athenry, Co Galway
I feel a Books@One could be a wonderful solution for our community in Athenry. We are going through major upheaval here with unemployment, businesses that have closed and lack of investment in the town. A community bookshop like this would be like a community hub for us.
Michael Walsh, Roscrea, Co Roscommon
Roscrea is a fairly typical market town, but in need of a dose of energy to bring the town back to life. There have been many factory closures in the town and a central hub or meeting place would be very welcome. Also there are several bookies in the town, and no bookshop, which tells its own story.
Etta MacDonagh, Collooney, Co Sligo
Collooney is a lovely little village, with a large population of schoolchildren and people who have lived here all their lives. It has several pubs, a community centre, a handball club and the GAA, but a Books@One would add a vibrancy to the community. As a retiree, and someone who grew up in Donegal, I see this type of enterprise as such a positive focal point for a community around which other endeavours can spin off.
Mary Lorraine McHugh, Moville, Co Donegal
I live in the small town of Moville. Like most rural Irish towns we have had our share of closures of shops and hotels. Lately there has been a small revival in this town. Old empty shops have been turned into small coffee shops, and an empty hotel that lay dormant for years has been bought and is undergoing a refurbishment. Moville is a prime setting for a bookshop and it would enhance the resurgence of this town.
Leah Comaskey, Devlin, Co Westmeath
I live in Delvin. We are the community that, through volunteers, organise the largest book fair in Ireland every May, but our closest library or bookshop is 15-plus kilometres away. Our village needs a physical heart to match the dogged effort and pride that has held it together for years. A Books@One would change our village forever and for the better. It could be the gift that would anchor our community.
Joanne Hunter, Kildorrery, Co Cork
A local bookstore would enhance village life in Kildorrery for our residents, provide a focal point for our book club, drama group and conversational Irish circle, while catering to our 193 primary schoolchildren. A bookshop in the area would spark a love of poetry, drama and storytelling and help our children learn to read and read to learn.
Sharon Bacon, Campile, Co Wexford
Campile is a thriving busy village with several food shops, hardware, garage, pubs, and a large school nearby, but no bookstore or cafe. There are a couple of chippers that open at night time but there is nowhere for people to get together for an informal chat or a community space to linger with no particular intention other than to browse or read. I think a Books@one would be a fantastic addition to the life of Campile village, offering non-denominational participation in healthy, intellectual enhancing social contact.
Laura Cullen, Bettystown, Co Meath
Bettystown is a wonderful area in which to live, with a variety of amenities, particularly our fabulous beach. However, these amenities are mostly concentrated around sporting activities, so we have no community centre, or a place for people to meet in an alternative setting to sports clubs. We also have no library. A Books@One would create a new and welcome focus to support the growth of community, and provide many diverse people of all ages with access to books and a place to meet and chat.
Gwen Barry, Crosshaven, Co Cork
My name is Gwen and I am eight years old. Me and my mom both love reading. We live in Crosshaven. I and my best friend Kate both love reading. We don’t have any library or bookshop in Crosshaven. I know there are loads of book clubs here. Once someone told me “if you have a book you are never alone”. When I’m older I would like to be a writer and have already started writing a book. We would love to have a Books@One.
Readers also made a case for a Books@One in the following towns and villages: Jack Scott, Roundwood, Co Wicklow; Tara Hevey, Kinnegad, Co Westmeath; Audrey Chapman, Newport, Co Mayo; Teresa Regan, Ballingarry, Co Tipperary; Margaret Murphy, Ardmore, Co Waterford; Claire Boyd, Lismore, Co Waterford.