The Bookshop in Kirkby Stephen is our Bookshop of the Month for August. This lovely independent bookstore was established in 1980. For over forty years this small shop has boasted a wide range of stock that includes maps, local books and guides, fiction, a good children’s selection and more! We spoke to Barbara, the shop’s owner and founder, about her four decades of experience managing this magical independent bookshop at the head of the Eden Valley.
1. What’s it like running an independent bookshop in Kirkby Stephen? What do you hope your shop brings to the local area – both now as well as when it is business as usual?
Kirkby Stephen is the Northern Gateway to the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the heart of the Upper Eden Valley and halfway on the Coast to Coast Walk made famous, of course, by Wainwright.
My shop is a world in miniature – I think I can say that any book lover will find a title in my shop which is just to his or her taste. It is a haven of peace and excitement for annual visitors and residents alike.
2. The Bookshop was established in 1980. What would you say has changed over the forty years?
Owning, stocking and personally running my own bookshop in this small market town is a joy. Over 40 years, I have watched and served and learned the histories of grandparents, parents and children. I have seen the children first as toddlers, then students and finally as parents buying for their own young children. It is the love of books which binds us together.
I have been lucky to meet some fascinating authors and bibliophiles and to organise book launches and to run a book club. My support for local authors is important. I can showcase titles from scholarly research of the history and customs of the Upper Eden Valley to biscuits of Tuscany and a personal view of the life and protection of the River Eden and its environment.
3. How do you go about choosing the wide range of titles that you stock in your shop?
My selection is made from books I have researched with a knowledge of my customers’ tastes and interests. Customers frequently ask “Can you recommend something I would enjoy?” and have come back with enthusiasm for more of that author or that genre and customers recommend titles, authors, genres they particularly like and so the variety of my stock grows from a dialogue between my customers and myself.
4. If you could pick one book on your shelves that everyone should read, what would it be and why?
To take from the shelf and handle a beautiful new book is a sensual pleasure which book lovers (and I) enjoy. It is a great satisfaction to me to contemplate my shelves filled with these delights anticipating the pleasure they will bring to others.
One book that everyone should read? That’s difficult. Personally I would choose Half of a Yellow Sun but I want every one of my customers to find on my shelves the one book they think everyone should read.
5. And finally, do you have any exciting plans for the shop in the coming months that you’d like to share with us?
My plans for the future as far as day-to-day business in the shop is concerned will continue as before. I have loyal and regular customers who is it is a joy to look after. I am not a technophile but I do understand the need to have a presence on the Internet; that is my plan for the future.
Finally, I would like to thank Yale University Press for the beauty of their books and Sally Sharp for the close personal service she provides to me and through me to my customers.
To find out more about The Bookshop in Kirkby Stephen, visit their Facebook page or pop into the shop for fantastic books – and brilliant book advice from Barbara herself!