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Bookshops are open, inclusive, welcoming spaces for everyone. Amid growing polarisation and censorship, this campaign will give voice to booksellers from across the RISE network who go above and beyond to ensure that their bookshops remain welcoming and inclusive spaces for all.

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Why bookshops matter

At a time of increased political and ideological polarisation, with rising censorship and the freedom of expression under threat, RISE Bookselling recognises the need to use our voice to defend the spaces we love the most: bookshops.

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Bookshops have a unique role in fostering values of peace, democracy, and tolerance. In the lead-up to the European elections, now more than ever it is vital to remind policymakers and stakeholders how crucial support from democratic institutions and book friendly policies are not just for bookshops, but for the vitality and vibrancy of society.

Bookseller Raluca Selejan, from La Două Bufniţe in Romania, kicks off our new campaign highlighting ‘bookshops as welcoming and inclusive spaces’ with an important message. Take a look!

Each week, our campaign will spotlight different booksellers across the RISE network who will explain how:

1

Bookshops make people feel represented 

2

Bookshops are safe havens where all are welcome

3

Bookshops are spaces for education, dialogue and literacy promotion 

4

Bookshops foster a sense of community and belonging 

Stay tuned across all RISE channels to hear from booksellers in the RISE network and the value their bookshops bring to today’s democratic societies, whether as places of representation, education, as safe havens, or community hubs.

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Bookshops make people feel represented

Brid-Conroy

"We curate books across many genres, particularly in the areas of humanities and nature and the environment; books to inform and that allow us to think in different ways about society and ourselves in it. We look to represent publishers and authors from different backgrounds, authors of colour, with neuro diversity, from the LGBTQ+ community."

jKimThumb

"We serve so many global citizens, cultural awareness and respect are everything. In an increasingly digital world, customer experience—how people feel when they interact with us as individuals and as a business—is paramount."

Bookshops are safe havens where all are welcome

Mairi-Oliver-thumbnail

"Being a haven for marginalised folk is an ever-changing thing - sometimes that means explicit actions, often it’s more subtle signaling, always it’s about being open to what our community needs and openly evolving."

emelie-porsackthumbnail

"By working in a bookshop and recommending books, I can open new worlds and topics to someone. I can help other people to feel safe in a world where not everyone is respectful or understanding. [...] Books can play a big part in supporting someone, with information or sometimes just with distraction."

Our Testimonials

Bookshops make people feel represented

We opened “Tertulia, a bookshop like no other” in 2019 with a clear mission to make a positive contribution to the way the world thinks. Tertulia is a Spanish word for a gathering of people who meet to discuss life and literature. Choosing the mission and the name were very important to us in establishing what our bookshop represents and why bookshops are so important in our communities. 

A recent reviewer called our shop “a literary living room” and I love this description. The bookshop is an extension of our home. It is an open invitation to come in, to engage in conversation, to meet other like-minded people, to see books that speak to you, that represent who you are. 

Communities need spaces where people can gather, where they can pop into, ask for help at times, to smile at when they pass or wave hello. We see the importance of what we do often in the small things. We serve coffee and provide seating for engaging and participating in the comings and goings of the bookshop. Many conversations are struck up and experiences shared. 

We curate books across many genres, particularly in the areas of humanities and nature and the environment; books to inform and that allow us to think in different ways about society and ourselves in it

We look to represent publishers and authors from different backgrounds, authors of colour, with neuro diversity, from the LGBTQ+ community.  Fiction is such a powerful way to live inside someone else’s world, not to judge and to understand how affecting these stories can be on how we ourselves interact in the world. 
We host a number of bookclubs which are open to all and give a space and platform to engage and participate in a deeper way in literature; fiction, history, childrens and a bookclub for writers. We also have a “Philosophers Hat Club” which provides a forum for discussions and community philosophising. We get to think together on many important issues affecting our world

We sponsor a Young Adult prize for Short Fiction annually and for the first time last year started a “Short Story Competition for Kids” which was a resounding success, encouraging children to write their own stories and grasp the power of words. We work with our local Arts Festival to ensure collaborations in a multi-disciplinary fashion across the Arts

So the concept of “Tertulia” works across all that we do, in the way we curate books, the clubs we host, the events we hold, the space we offer to the community; a positive contribution to the way the world thinks

Brid-round

BRID CONROY
Tertulia Bookshop, Ireland

Nooroongji Books opened in August 2022 with the mission to make multilingual mainstream. Surrounded by water and mountain views, Nooroongji Boks is open 7 days a week, 362 days a year in the heart of Granville Island, Vancouver's premier cultural and artistic hub, welcoming over 10 million visitors a year. Vancouver itself is also one of the most vibrantly diverse cities in North America.

Because we serve so many global citizens, cultural awareness and respect are everything. In an increasingly digital world, customer experience—how people feel when they interact with us as individuals and as a business—is paramount.

Some of the values that guide our operations are as follows:

1. Multilingualism: We believe multilingual access and diverse representation foster community, connection, and understanding across difference. We carry materials in over a dozen languages at any given time.

2. Curation: Each book is a monument, reflecting stories and experiences of others that we connect with. We strive to source editions of uncommon literary merit, cultural significance, relevance to our diverse clientele, and beauty.

3. Customer service: We understand that every customer is unique, with their own preferences, needs, and circumstances. Staff training is extensive to introduce language and gestures that translate respect and warmth across cultures.

4. Inclusivity: We believe everyone can and should experience representation through printed matter, regardless of background, language, or identity. Understanding that minority groups are not a monolith is crucial to avoid treating representation as a mere signal for virtue. For us representation was always a part of the design and origin of the shop. The way we display our collection reflects this: organized in sections without labels, our shelves invite visitors to immerse in the experience of browsing without our voice telling them how certain books ought to be categorized or thought about.

5. Community: We believe bookstores should be community hubs where people can come together to share and engage. It’s been a particular pleasure for me to observe friendships burgeoning amongst our customers through our book and social clubs, launches, and other events..

6. Sustainability: We strive to source books and materials in a thoughtful way that minimizes waste, and we are always looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint, like operating on non-returnable terms with almost all suppliers, and reusing everything that can possibly be recycled.

jKim

JENNIFER KIM
Nooroongji Books, Canada

Bookshops are safe havens where all are welcome

When you navigate the west as a white, able-bodied, middle class, cis straight man, the world is so accessible and accommodating, literally built for you. Our bookshop offers a space where that effortless belonging will be felt by those who don’t yet navigate the world without friction, challenge or even rejection. A place to feel valued, celebrated, safe and empowered.
 
Being a haven for marginalised folk is an ever-changing thing - sometimes that means explicit actions, often it’s more subtle signaling, always it’s about being open to what our community needs and openly evolving. Our friends at the Glasgow Women’s Library have a saying, there are no hard-to-reach audiences, only those easy-to-ignore, so it’s on us to shout from the rooftops: YOU are welcome here. Before we even get to the books and the author events, we make sure people can access the bookshop.

Clear accessibility information and a safe space policy on our website make sure people know what to expect. That includes masks at indoor events so immune compromised authors and audiences can choose to attend. It includes a pay-it-forward system so people can take home books even if they are broke. We wear our values proudly before you even cross the threshold; We fly LGBTQ+ Pride and Trans flags and our front door is smattered with stickers that declare us anti-fascist, queer and disability inclusive. The shopfront has posters in support of migrants, unions, Gaza and reproductive justice, and the window displays are consciously diverse. A ramp in, a clear layout and cosy chairs accommodate wheelchair users and mobility impaired readers. 

These values are reflected in the books we choose, the authors we invite to events, and the community organisations we work with. It’s all part of fostering progressive ideas and community bonds - people learn here, connect here, are galvanised here. 
There’s a flipside to openness - we’ve been targets for harassment of various kinds. At RISE Lisbon fellow booksellers shared stories of confrontations, historic raids, blocking letterboxes to prevent postal attacks, removing hateful stickers and graffiti. But we never have to meet these challenges alone - therein lies the beauty and strength in community. It makes us resilient. 
 
Indie bookshops are hubs for creativity, we are nimble in reacting to community needs, reading appetites and interests driven by wider concerns. Bookshops are so much more than a retail unit that happens to sell books. We (booksellers) all have stories of intensely personal interactions with customers that go beyond a transactional relationship. From hugs with grieving Palestinians, to keeping an eye on panic attacks in progress, being asked for recommendations on addiction or trauma, navigating neurodiversity through books, and coping with loss.
  
Hearing that sigh of relief upon entering the shop is a regular and gratifying occurrence here at Lighthouse. A sign that we are a place of refuge and relaxation. We’ll keep doing the work, so that as many people as possible get to experience that visceral comfort. 

Love & Solidarity,

Mairi-Oliver-round

HANNAH ALLUM & MAIRI OLIVER
Lighthouse Bookshop, United Kingdom

Besides working in a bookshop, reading is my biggest hobby. I started reading for fun, but I got so much more out of it. Reading helped me to understand myself better, people around me and people I didn't know about beforehand. Reading opened my mind to so many new topics, I would have probably never gotten in touch with. 
 
Exactly this exploring side of reading motivated me to become a bookseller, in the hope of inspiring others to read. By working in a bookshop and recommending books, I can open new worlds and topics to someone. I can help other people to feel safe in a world where not everyone is respectful or understanding. Not everyone has the privilege of having a supporting family or friends. It can be hard to be on your own with questions, issues or thoughts. Books can play a big part in supporting someone, with information or sometimes just with distraction.  
  
When I founded the "taskforce diversity" as a part of young upcoming booksellers at Börsenverein, I wanted to raise some awareness about diversity as part of the bookish community. Some people asked, "if" or "why" we still need to talk about "stuff like that".

But I like to answer that the key lies behind the small word "how": How can we include everyone? How can we support a diverse community? How do we want to live together, besides our differences? Bookshops can take part in opinion-forming.

Not only by selling informative books, but also by showcasing topics. If we try to include everyone in this concept, our community can become more open-minded and welcoming. When everyone has access to more information about diverse topics, there would probably be less misunderstandings or false information about these. Bookshops can fulfill exactly that. In books someone can share ideas or thoughts and others can read them, maybe reflect on them. By visiting a bookshop someone can encounter so many different topics, people and ideas. In my opinion that’s one of the most important traits for coming together and becoming part of an open-minded community.  
  
Literature is diverse and everyone deserves a safe space. For some people, a safe space is among some books or pages and that's why it's so important to be aware and supportive. 

emelie-porsack-round

EMELIE PORSACK
Bookseller. Spokesperson for taskforce diversity at Börsenverein, Germany

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