Books4Life – sell a book, make a friend
December 9, 2009 Leave a Comment
The idea behind “Books4life” was first conceived by a group of students from the University of Tilburg, who in February 2005 opened the first second hand charity bookshop ran by students.
After just 10 months, Books4Life had managed to raise EUR 4,125. Three years after, a short evaluation of the project showed that it had raised awareness about sensitive issues beyond the student population and that it had gathered over EUR 24,000 for charity.
This success led to the opening of a second hand charity book shop in Maastricht in April 2009.
Books4Life is located in a cozy basement room at Maastricht University’s School of Governance. The old brick walls, the smell of paper and the big couch in the shop all help to create the image of a comfortable place where people would want to spend time.
Most of the books for sale are in Dutch, English, or German and prices vary between EUR 1 and EUR 5. Specialised books don’t exceed EUR 8. Visitors can choose between various subject matters, such as medicine, literature, and other study topics.
Books4Life is the result of a cooperation between students and university staff, who work together within a three layer structure formed by a board, an organizing group and volunteers. The latter category mainly consists of students, university staff. An important and attractive aspect of the volunteer work is that working hours are flexible.
Alvaro Moreno, a Spanish PhD student who was involved in the setting up of Books4Life in Maastricht says that this activity suited him because he is an “expat always looking for something to do”. “It’s not only the love of books which can lead you to volunteer your time or visit the shop,” , he says, “it goes beyond that: the team wants to make it a cozy place, where you can also go and have tea, for example”.
For Isabel Lamers, one of the four students who form the current team in charge of the shop, it is important “to make it fun for the volunteers who accept to donate their time to work here.”
Together with her colleagues Heike Seel, Janina Otte and Karwin Cheung, she organises meetings, dinners and other social events for all volunteers. These activities allow new volunteers to meet their colleagues in an informal ambiance and have fun while doing charity work.
So far, the initiative has been very successful from the beginning in recruiting volunteers and collecting books to sell, but it is growing slowly in terms of customers. “More publicity within and outside the University would help,” agrees Heike.
Books4Life intends to donate 25 percent of the money raised from the second hand sale of books towards two organizations: Amnesty International and Oxfam Novib, and 50 percent to other charities decided by the volunteers, such as smaller NGOs or other projects proposed by people working in the shop. However, since the Maastricht initiative is still quite young, the first allocations have yet to be made.
A percentage of the profit, yet to be decided, will be invested in the promotion of the shop, both within and outside the University, through posters or the publication of articles in different magazines. However, exceptionally this year, all expenses in this regard were covered by the University.
Books4Life can be an interesting initiative for the expatriate community living in and around Maastricht. Susan, an American woman whose husband used to work at the University, says that she made many friends during her stay in Maastricht thanks to her volunteer work for Books4Life.
Books4Life wants to keep growing, sell more books and donate more funds to its selected charities; and if the number of students who are hurrying to devote their time to this altruistic project is any sign, it looks like it’s well on its way to achieve this goal.
By Andra Gunescu
Andra Gunescu is a law student from Romania who is interested in “capturing some of Maastricht’s atmosphere”.
Photographs: Catalina Goanta and Books4Life website
Address: Minderbroedersberg 4-6, 6211 LK Maastricht
Opening times: Monday – Friday from 12 to 4 pm
Website: Books4Life Maastricht