A Scottish bookshop which faced closure last week is on the brink of a bright future after the support of hundreds of people, including Scots writers Ian Rankin and Christopher Brookmyre.
Pre-loved publications shop Guid Reads, on Stirling Street, Alva, in Clackmannanshire, feared the worst after its landlord announced his imminent retiral.
In a panic, owner Ruth Galloway put out a tweet on August 31 saying: ‘Help – landlord potentially selling our shop – we could buy it for £35K. I panicked until I thought – is 1000 people investing £35 to have their name written on the outside of the building and a receive a free pre-loved book every month for a year silly?;
But within hours, thousands of pounds came flooding in after Ruth established a GoFundMe page, to help keep it going, with re-tweets from various authors, publishers and other bookshops, to raise more than £40,000.
Speaking to Scottish Field, Ruth said: ‘It’s been an incredible week – I won’t have another week like this again!
‘It was a panic at first, but I understand where the landlord is coming from as he wants to retire, but for us, it’s the fear of the unknown as you don’t know who’s going to buy it and they might put the rent up – it was a real fear.
‘I was looking for advice from the Twitter hive brain when I put it out there in the first tweet. I didn’t want to put it on the Facebook page and get an emotional response, so I wanted to come up with a plan, after I told people what was happening.
‘From starting off looking from advice, my phone started pinging every four seconds and people were asking where they could donate, so we updated the GoFundMe and what happened next was unbelievable.
‘If someone told you it was the plot for a book, you wouldn’t believe it. The response has just been phenomenal.
‘The phone was ringing off the hook with people wanting to get in touch, to support us, from the media – it was keeping a dream we didn’t know we had alive!’
Guid Reads initially hoped to raise £35,000, but the target has risen after a proper check into the cost of buying the shop unit.
Ruth explained: ‘The initial valuation we were given was off the record, when we asked what we were looking at having to raise, and we found out it was wrong by quite a lot!
‘When the official valuation came in, the GoFundMe total put us in a strong position to negotiate.
‘We’re at £48,000, as I’ve just looked in the last half hour, and our target is £55,000, which we have until April to raise. It’s amazing – I wouldn’t have believed that a week ago.
‘We’ve got time on our side now, we’ve got seven months. We’ve had three four-figure sum donations, which gives me goosebumps thinking about it – people have just been incredible and I get quite emotional to think that people have chosen to invest in us, given all that’s going on in the world just now.
‘I’ve spent the whole weekend on my laptop responding to everyone personally – I was missing things as they happened, they were moving so quickly! Ian Rankin has donated, Christopher Brookmyre has donated, Neil Gaiman has retweeted – all these authors who have better things to do in their day!
‘What’s been so lovely to hear is that so much of the support has come from people who have had books change their lives for the better.’
Guid Reads has come from humble beginnings, just over 12 months ago.
Ruth explain: ‘We started as a book swap in the park last August – books have got me through a lot of hard times and are really precious to me.
‘I had surgery on the Tuesday before we went into lockdown and had recovery time on my hands afterwards.
‘ I was sitting with my daughter and thought we could put a folding bookcase in the back of the car and go down to the park and let people swap books, as the library was still closed.
‘We went down and took cover under the roof of the abandoned toilets on a filthy night when it was getting dark, there was a wind blowing with rain, but people still turned out, and they kept coming along.
‘We saw this property come up and said it would be a great place for a book shop. We needed £1000 to secure the property and put up a GoFundMe page, and within 12 hours we had the lease on the building before we even had a name or a concept for the shop – it was an amazing story and what we do evolves every day.’
Guid Reads has become far more than a bookshop in its time, as it has become a focal hub for the community in a difficult time with the pandemic.
Ruth explained: ‘Last Christmas we helped people order presents for their family, if didn’t want to go into town, so we helped order online if they didn’t know how to do that.
‘We could do click and collect on the shop door and a man brought me a cup of coffee every day as that was his way of thanking us, as it gave him a reason to get out of the house every day.
‘We have a community jigsaw where people come in and read. We helped someone move house into sheltered accommodation when everything fell through, and he was moved in three days so he didn’t need to pay twice for his rent. It really has became a hub for the community.
‘It’s almost as if the books are a cover for the magic we can spread – they bring so many people in.’
Ruth added: ‘We’re looking for another 200 people to donate £35 to have their name written on the outside of the shop, and we would love to hear from anyone.’
To support the Guid Reads fundraising, click HERE.
Visit HERE to find out more about Guid Reads.