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A year of book swapping at Stratford Station, East London: “the appetite for books is incredible”

Justine Rose has run Books for London’s bookswap shelf in Stratford station since November 2012. Here she shares some of her experiences of setting up and running the bookswap there.

To set up a book swap the main thing you need is persistence.  Station managers are very busy people and often have a number of stations that they look after, this means that an email asking about the potential of having a book swap on their station is not top of their priority list.  You have to keep pestering them until they agree to a meeting and then you are in.  As long as a space can be agreed, and you have to be flexible on this, then the rest is easy.  Chris was very helpful and supportive in advising me on approaching the station manager and then on installation day he arrived with a set of shelves and bags of books.

The swap is now a year old and I have been promoting the swap to Newham Volunteers, the local Freecycle group and the station staff.  Getting the station staff on board was key for me as I wanted them to feel it was their swap to which would mean they would hopefully keep and eye on it.  I designed a poster for their staff room to explain to them what it was all about.  When I see staff standing near it when I am putting books in I always say hello and comment on the swap, or ask if they have any books for it.

bookswap photoI have recently produced labels for any books I put in the swap that tell people that the book is “a Stratford Station book swap book” it asks them to return, replace or pass on the book after they have read it.  The idea is to get the message across about the point of the swap is for the books to be read by many people not just to end up on a shelf.  I drop a few books into the swap a few times a week as I would rather there where a few books in the swap most of the time rather than loads and then nothing.

I have developed a relationship with the staff at the Healthy Planet book shop in Stratford shopping centre.  They have a similar ethos as they want books to stay in circulation and out of landfill.  The volunteers bring around 25 books a week to the swap.  We have a poster at both locations promoting each other.

The swap is in a great, safe but high traffic area.  The variety and amount of books that go through the swap still amazes me, the appetite for books is incredible and just shows that people do want to read something that is not a free paper full of negative stories and marketing.

So if you are passing through Stratford station drop a book or two off to the swap.  It can be found in the tunnel of the WH Smith side of the station, next to the Kiosk and the stairs to platform 5 and Central line West.

Interested in helping us out in Straford, or just knowing more? Email Justine at stratfordbookswap@gmail.com.

Station Swap image

About books for London

Books for London is working towards establishing a London-wide book sharing scheme in London’s tube and train stations. With hundreds of thousands of visitors travelling through London’s stations, this highly visible scheme will help to cement London as a capital of literacy. Read more about the campaign and how to get involved...
As seen on the Time Out London blog

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