We lose ourselves in books. We often find ourselves there too.

The BIG Little Library is an oasis in the middle of a buzzing shopping centre that offers customers a haven of peace where they can browse at their leisure, find books of their choice or be introduced to a different author they may not have read before. It’s also much more than that. The multi award-winning community venture by Gateacre School in Liverpool came about from a simple idea; wanting to help improve literacy within the community.

We sat down with them:

Tell us all about The Big Little Library?

Due to its overwhelming success in 2015 (for 3 months) Gateacre School was approached by Belle Vale Shopping Centre and asked to reopen the BLL for a minimum of 6 months. We are about to celebrate 2 years with no end in sight. Our award winning BIG Little Library continues to grow, having now served over 35,000 customers and given away over 40,000 books for free.

The BLL is a gathering place for book lovers, where the community can share their favourite literature as well as take part in enjoyable games, read, share and even write their own stories. All the books are free to take and do not have to be returned, but customers are encouraged to pass books on, or donate books to the BLL for other customers to enjoy. 

Who are your customers?

Our customers range from our own students, local primary schools, shoppers, residents and the wider community, with many people making specific journeys just to visit us. We’ve welcomed over 1500 primary school children as part of our free literacy workshops, our volunteers have now been trained by the Reader Organisation to hold Shared Reading Groups, and The Reader reports far reaching health benefits and amazing personal journeys. At community level shared reading groups reinforce the role of the library in supporting stronger, healthier, more resilient communities, and we are lucky to be a part of it! We currently have 2 Shared Reading Groups on a Tuesday and Thursday each week.

The BIG Little Library has truly embedded itself in the community having first opened in 2015, and has inspired the students involved. We have a regular band of Gateacre students who volunteer to run the shop. The students’ involvement has been invaluable, assisting with the running of the BLL and delivering workshops to our Primaries, building relationships with younger students, helping them pick and read books. Some of our SEN students are using the BLL to improve their own reading, having one to one sessions with our volunteers after school, in turn, helping their school work. Our students also used their skills to volunteer for the Summer Reading Challenge, working in Liverpool Libraries supporting younger children in selecting books for the summer holidays and organise events. Gateacre School has more student volunteers for this year’s Summer Reading Challenge than any other Liverpool School and we are very proud to be role models to help improve the reading abilities of younger children.

Who is it run by?

Our group of community volunteers who help keep the BLL open during school hours and weekends are a godsend. It’s a varied mix of former students, recently retired, parents, school governors a couple from Australia over on holiday who stayed to help! The BLL has truly become part of the community, with our volunteers’ taking ownership of the project and adding their own experience and expertise. They run creative writing classes and knitting groups, regularly knitting for specific causes, most recently “Sixty Million Trebles” a project to highlight the 60 million refugees currently in the world. The BLL’s target was to knit 1,000,000 trebles which were be turned into blankets and given to the Paper Cup Project and Dog’s trust. 

Customers use the BLL as a social hub, meeting friends, or just having the chance to have someone to talk to, which they might not have at home. Customers with learning difficulties love the shop because it has a relaxed atmosphere. Some tell us their reading ability isn’t the best, and use the BLL to help them as the books are free. Most noticeably this year, a number of customers have English as a second.