CWA October Bookseller of the Month: Guid Books, Alva
Every month, as part of the new CWA Booksellers Champion initiative with bestselling author Elly Griffiths, we want to celebrate a bookshop because we believe bookshops don’t just sell our books – they bring our streets alive. This month, Elly writes about Guid Books in Alva, run by Ruth Galloway.
I was already fascinated by the story behind Guid Reads Alva but, when I found out that the owner was called Ruth Galloway (the name of the protagonist in my books), I knew that I had to get in contact.
And what a story it is. Ruth had life-saving surgery just before the first lockdown. As she recovered, Ruth wanted to give something back to her local community. An avid reader who credited books for getting her through her illness, Ruth felt the loss of her local library, which couldn’t open because it was on school premises. On impulse Ruth bought some folding bookcases and decided to do a book swap in the local park. Despite wind and rain, there was an incredible turnout.
Ruth continued to do her Tuesday book swaps but, as winter approached, she knew that she had to find an alternative venue. She and her daughter joked about opening a shop. Then the perfect premises became available. It had window seats and, even more importantly, had belonged to a lovely couple whom Ruth knew well. Ruth decided to set up a crowd funder to rent the shop. She opened it at 8.30am and, by 9pm the same day, she had the money. A week later, on her 40th birthday, Ruth took possession of the keys. A week after that, Guid Reads Alva opened. Everything was donated, including the bookshelves and the books themselves.
Then comes the next chapter. Ruth’s landlord was retiring and planned to sell the bookshop premises. Unsure what to do, Ruth turned to twitter for advice. Within seconds, someone tweeted to ask how they could donate. Ruth set up a GoFundMe page and, overnight, she had raised £46,000 towards the purchase of the shop. ‘It was magical,’ she says. She is now only about £2000 away from her target.
Now Guid Reads Alva is a genuine community hub. Ruth helps fill in benefit forms and has even driven people to hospital and helped them move house. Ongoing projects include teaming with refugee charities to provide books in multiple languages. Ruth has plans to expand her space to include a counselling centre and run literacy sessions. ‘The world’s our oyster,’ she says. Local authors like Moira McPartlin have been very supportive and Ruth would be delighted to hear from any author passing through the town in Clackmannanshire. Crime fiction sales are booming, helped by the success of festivals like Bloody Scotland, and perhaps, suggests Ruth, by an understandable desire to read about people who have worse troubles than we do.
And, for those of you who collect coincidences, Ruth also has Brighton links and she and I once worked as chambermaids at the same hotel. You couldn’t make it up.