Tag Archives: volunteering

Library Checkout: July 2020

New books, at long last!! Earlier this month my public library system started an order and collection service. I have already gone to pick up two batches of reservations.

I also signed up to be a library volunteer starting in the first week of August – two hours on a Tuesday morning and two hours on a Thursday afternoon. To start with, I will mostly be helping with shelving and picking the reserved books off the shelves. It will be fun to be a part of this service, and once the library fully reopens perhaps I’ll have a little more customer interaction, too.

Have you been able to borrow more books lately, perhaps via a curbside pickup scheme? Feel free to use the image above and leave a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part in Library Checkout (which runs on the last Monday of every month), or tag me on Twitter/Instagram (@bookishbeck, #TheLibraryCheckout).





  • Death Is but a Dream: Finding Hope and Meaning at Life’s End by Dr. Christopher Kerr with Carine Mardorossian


  • The Butterfly Isles: A Summer in Search of Our Emperors and Admirals by Patrick Barkham
  • Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
  • Addition by Toni Jordan



  • Dark, Salt, Clear: Life in a Cornish Fishing Town by Lamorna Ash



  • The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré
  • What Have I Done?: An Honest Memoir about Surviving Postnatal Mental Illness by Laura Dockrill
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
  • Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
  • How to Be Both by Ali Smith
  • Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth


  • Close to Where the Heart Gives Out: A Year in the Life of an Orkney Doctor by Malcolm Alexander



  • Disobedience by Naomi Alderman
  • A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom by John Boyne
  • Dependency by Tove Ditlevsen
  • 33 Meditations on Death: Notes from the Wrong End of Medicine by David Jarrett
  • Can You Hear Me? A Paramedic’s Encounters with Life and Death by Jake Jones
  • Dear NHS: 100 Stories to Say Thank You, edited by Adam Kay
  • Exchange by Paul Magrs
  • Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell
  • The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  • Sadler’s Birthday by Rose Tremain
  • Water Ways: A Thousand Miles along Britain’s Canals by Jasper Winn
  • The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer



  • A Summer of Drowning by John Burnside – The prologue didn’t draw me in.
  • The Motion of the Body through Space by Lionel Shriver – Kooky names, overwriting, obvious setup, racial stereotypes.
  • Summer before the Dark: Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth, Ostend 1936 by Volker Weidermann – Too niche a subject.


What appeals from my stacks?

Two New Bookish Volunteering Ventures

Working from home, I don’t get out or see other people nearly often enough, so any time I think of a way that I can get more human interaction while contributing to a worthy cause – like spreading the love of reading – it’s worth seizing.

I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but here in our town there are tons of empty storefronts on the main street and in the mall, which makes everything feel half-derelict. The Global Educational Trust was donated a shop space in my local mall and set up a free bookshop that has since been taken over by Fair Close Centre, a non-residential center where the elderly can socialize and take advantage of hot meals and other services. The shop creates awareness of Fair Close and what it has to offer, and also promotes reading and lifelong learning.

I volunteered late last year when it was first being set up, and for the past few weeks I’ve been putting in two hours every Friday afternoon. Did I mention it’s full of free books!? This is kind of a problem for someone who already has a house full of books plus boxes of them in storage back in America. (But not really a problem.) The first time I was there I scored eight books; on four subsequent visits I’ve both donated and acquired books, sometimes in unhelpful ratios. Seven given versus two taken: excellent! Two donated and nine acquired: not so good. Six out; three in: A-OK. This past Friday I broke even with four of each.

We’re making do with insufficient shelving, whatever we’ve been able to scrounge from going-out-of-business shops, etc., so the categories are not very precise yet. Most of my work so far has been rearranging the central area for fiction (someone thought it was a good idea to have the alphabetical sequence going across the four bays of shelves, rather than from top to bottom in one case and then on to the next one to the right, as is the custom in any library or bookstore!) and pulling out all the nonfiction that snuck in. You often see this in charity shops: people who don’t know much about books end up shelving memoirs, travel books and history in with the fiction. In this photo you can see evidence of my tidying in fiction, A–F.


The other project I’ve been working on lately, though it’s still very much in the planning stages, is a theological lending library at my church. This was prompted by me looking through our shelves of religion books and deciding that there were upwards of 20 books that we would likely never read again/ever but that others might find edifying. In the end I pulled out 36 books to donate, ranging in outlook from C.S. Lewis to Rob Bell. I’m also aware that my mother-in-law, who’s retiring from ministry this year, will likely shed many theology books when they downsize to leave the rectory, and there are various retired clergy members in our church who might have books to pass on. So I had a meeting with our vicar last week to talk through some ideas about where we might house a library and how the system might work.

For now we plan to trial a pop-up library in the cloisters in mid-July, advertised via the notice sheet in early June. In the weeks leading up to it, we’ll accept book donations to a box at the back of the church (and reserve the right to jettison books that seem dated or unhelpful!). The lending will be on an honesty system, with people writing their name and the book title(s) in a ledger. We’ll suggest that books borrowed at the pop-up in mid-July could be returned in early September, though keeping them out longer wouldn’t be a problem. Nor, for that matter, would it be a problem if some books never make it back to the shelves – we’d like to hope they’ll be helpful to people.

The only other equipment to get hold of now is a set of bookplates with the church logo. As to how to classify the books, I may well model our system on this one. I know I’ll have fun cataloguing the books and affixing spine labels and bookplates. It’ll be like my library assistant days all over again – except just the fun working-with-books bit and not the babysitting-students bit.


Are you involved in any volunteer projects?