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The Big Bristol Book Borrow: finding your next lockdown read

Epigram talks to the founder of a new community-driven lending library right here in Bristol to keep us busy with books in our time of trouble.

By Livi Player, Arts Editor

University of Bristol graduate Georgia Marsh has set up a new community-driven lending library in Bristol to keep local people busy with books during the isolation period. What inspired such a project?

There’s no doubt our daily lives are pretty obscured and out of whack right now. With the country under lockdown and social distancing rules still firmly in place under the current outbreak we’re spending a lot of time alone and at home away from our friends and families, with some in total isolation from everyone, but all totally bored. And that is how Georgia came up with the idea for The Big Bristol Book Borrow.

I first ask Georgia what the The Big Bristol Book Borrow is. ‘It is a community-driven lending library that seeks to connect Bristolians to books in difficult times, perhaps when they are socially isolated or can't leave the house,’ she says. She goes to explain that she set it up with just a Facebook group and an Instagram page.

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there's no doubt times are weird and wild at the minute. civilisation and society is fragile and the future is uncertain. we're spending a lot of time alone, distanced from our friends and loved ones or in total isolation - tired, lonely, maybe sick but definitely really fucking bored! which is where the idea of the big bristol book borrow came about. this project is a community-driven lending library connecting bristolians to books in times of trouble. why not lend your well-loved titles to your friends and neighbours or borrow something you've always wanted to read? if you're struggling for book inspo, we can help you there too! not only is this a bespoke library service, but it also safeguards book lovers from the possibility of bookshops, libraries and online retailers being forced to close in the case of quarantine. don't ever fear of running out of books! 💜 CLICK THE LINK IN OUR BIO TO FIND OUT MORE 💜

A post shared by The Big Bristol Book Borrow (@thebigbristolbookborrow) on

She says the project has been ‘really well-received and I've had both friends and strangers share it across social media and invite their friends to be a part of it. The reception has been really warm which I'm very happy about!’

We have over 100 books that we can deliver right to your door

I ask Georgia how people can get involved in the Big Bristol Book Borrow. She says: ‘Anyone can get involved! Simply join the Facebook group and you'll find two sign-up sheets: one for borrowers and the other for lenders.

‘The lenders sheet gives you the opportunity to lend your well-loved reads to the community - we only come pick them up once someone has "checked it out" and will deliver them back once they're done! - whereas the borrower sheet is your application to take out the books in our mini-library.

‘We have over 100 books that we can deliver right to your door. I'd originally limited the deliveries and collections to just central and north Bristol as that's where I can walk to, however so many people have been kind enough to offer to deliver for me to places beyond our reach.’

In our current climate, the importance of cleaning the books in this project is vital. Georgia tells me they ‘disinfect all the books in between the passing of hands to prevent the spread of the virus’. She even demonstrates exactly how she cleans the books between uses with a handy video on the project’s Instagram page.

Finally, we asked Georgia how she came up with the idea for the Big Bristol Book Borrow and why book borrowing specifically. ‘COVID-19 led me to set this project up for two reasons. The first being that people are going to be socially isolated right now whether they're social distancing or self-isolating and it's a perfect opportunity to read something new, however, you might not be able to access new books right now.

‘If you can't get to Waterstones, a charity shop or the library, you're limited in ways you're able to read, so having someone deliver a book lent to you by someone in your community during a troublesome time is quite a lovely thing!

‘We disinfect all the books in between the passing of hands to prevent the spread of the virus’
Founder Georgia Marsh on how Big Bristol Book Borrow are safely delivering books in a pandemic

‘Secondly, my own anxiety regarding this has been a little hard to manage at the moment. I'm struggling with the prospect of a very uncertain future and thinking about everything I could lose - family members, my job, my flat, my friends who may have to move back in with their parents, my favourite clubs, restaurants, cafes, pubs, shops, bars, etc.

‘The impact on the community and my own world could be disastrous and to say it's getting me down would be an understatement. Having something to distract me and to be constantly thinking about and organising has given me a way to manage this anxiety and put my whole heart into something I really care about.’

With being stuck at home in the lockdown, people are more likely to be bored with a lot more time on their hands than usual. ‘People want to read!’ Georgia says. ‘Books are my favourite things in the world. They connect you to yourself and to others like nothing else can.

‘Reading is an experience that's at once intensely personal and crazily interpersonal. Books are so good for the soul in so many ways and should be protected at all costs.’

The project is such a wonderful beam of positivity during very uncertain times and definitely something to get involved in to find your next book - there are literally over a hundred to choose from delivered straight to your door.

You can follow the project on Instagram here: @thebigbristolbookborrow
You can sign up to become a borrower here.
You can sign up to become a lender here.
Don’t forget to follow the project’s Facebook page for updates.

Featured image credit: Georgia Marsh

Have you been involved with The Big Bristol Book Borrow? Let us know!