Books@One, in Louisburgh, County Mayo is re-inventing what a bookstore can be and how it can breathe new life into a small community.

The brick and mortar retail sector has suffered considerably the past number of years with department store closings  (Clerys) and challenges from online competition (Amazon), and no retailer has suffered more than bookstores.  More than once the death of the bookstore has been predicted and many shops have indeed folded, but there are signs that the demise of the independent bookseller may be premature.  A little bookstore in a tiny town in a remote region of Ireland is re-inventing what a bookstore can be and how it can breathe new life into a small community.

Louisburgh is a small seaside town on the Atlantic coast on Clew Bay in County Mayo, with a population of around 1000.   Once a thriving holiday town, like many others it met its downfall with the financial crisis of 2008 - shops were shuttered and the ghost of unemployment and social problems returned.

Books@One is a Community Bookstore which serves also as a social, cultural and creative hub for the local community.  In a time when, more than ever, people are feeling isolated and cast adrift on the cold grey, digital sea of modernity, Books@One serves as both a beacon and a lifeboat.

The first Books@One shop was founded in Louisburgh, Co. Mayo by The One Foundation in 2016, and is currently run by Tricia Hudson, Anne O’Leary and a small team of dedicated volunteers.

Books@One aims to provide a warm, friendly and welcoming space in which people can enjoy browsing, reading and buying books, and in which community members can meet and connect with one another through the medium of literature and the arts.

Bright, cheery interior

Bright, cheery interior

Similar to many small, independent bookshops in Ireland and beyond, Books@One knows and appreciates the value of building community and creating opportunities for people to come together. There are regular events held in the bookshop including story time for children on Saturday mornings, readings from local authors, and creative writing workshops. The Books@One Louisburgh team also hosted a hugely successful book festival in 2017, featuring local award-winning author, Mike McCormack (Solar Bones).

What makes Books@One different is its focus on people not profits, on community not commodity.  A curated selection of new and used books, a co-working space, coffee and Internet, an event space for literary happenings, special events for children and youth in the community all make for a vibrant and celebratory space.  Volunteers help to keep costs down and ensure that the voice of the community remains an integral part of the enterprise.

While Books@One is not anti-technology, the focus is on the face-to-face contact that is so important in building and maintaining a community and in creating the kind of social engagement that can revitalize a sagging economy.  The shop itself is bright and airy.  Some nice lounge chairs add to the casual ambience and encourage patrons to stay awhile, to mix and to mingle. Many of the activities at Books@One are intended to engage the younger members of the community.  Recently they’ve offered a space-based camp for children and youth, featuring signed copies of the Book, “No Dream is Too High”, by astronaut Buzz Aldrin.  They’ve also sponsored the Clew Bay Writing Competition, open to children living in Mayo aged 9-12 years. 

The One Foundation has been very happy with the positive energy and enthusiasm surrounding the first iteration of Books@One and is developing a plan to replicate such Community Bookshops elsewhere in Ireland.

In addition to fostering a lifelong love of books and learning, Books@One reaches beyond the narrow confines of cold type on an empty page to promote intergenerational literacy,  social engagement and a community experience that is welcoming to booklovers and non-bibliophiles alike.   Books@One is a continually evolving social experiment, a destination bookstore that invites participation, whether to buy or to browse, to stop in for a neighbourly chat, to attend a community event, to join in story time or a book club or to dream big about what a community bookstore, a town or a country might be.

You can find out more about Books@One, Lousiburgh, here.

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