Friday, 27 November 2015

A really Spacey BookSpace!

We've finally moved all those books upstairs into the West Wing at 5th Avenue Plaza. It took about a month (again) to move all the furniture, shelving and something like 23,000 books up into the new unit. It's very spacious and open... nowhere to hide any mess, so we are going to have to be tidy at all times!

Official opening times are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday Friday, 11.00 - 17.00
occasionally we can be open later if necessary. No Saturdays. And please make an appointment.
In the new year we hope to be open on Wednesdays as well.

We are doing our best to let everyone know that they should come as soon as possible to get books for their clients / members / service users / friends / pupils in time for Christmas.

This is only half the story!

We'll post photos of the children's room next week when everything is in place. Some of the teddies are still on holiday.We'd like to let you know in advance that the carpet is lovely and new and soft and we'll be making sure there are nice spots to sit on the floor with the toddlers and read BOOKS!

So come along soon - it is BIG and we have more books than ever on more subjects than ever and as usual we will not allow groups to leave with silly numbers like 43 if it could be 50 or 86 if it could be 100!

The full address is now:
West Wing (bell 7)
5th Avenue Plaza
Queensway North
Team Valley NE11 0BL

It is now upstairs, but there is a lift. The shelving is much more widely spaced than previously, making it far more accessible for people using wheelchairs. Also the front door on the West Wing side has much better access as there is no parking space plumb in front of the door, as on the East Wing side where we were before, making loading your car a lot simpler!

All in all, a good move!

jingle bells, and all that :-)

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Back from Hibernation

At last our three-month hibernation is almost over. In July we were asked by our landlord to move to a small temporary unit as it seemed our offices had been leased out.
We have JUST got the keys to a much larger unit upstairs in the West Wing of 5th Avenue Plaza - right opposite our former location.

We will start moving things upstairs once the clocks change.... it will probably take around 2-3 weeks to get things back up and running, but w'll do it in style and you will be delighted with the results.

The space is large and open - not so many small offices as in the old unit, so we will probably have a separate room for all the children's books with the rest of the books in the open space. It's wonderfully light as there are windows on three sides....

Photos of empty offices are really not inspiring - it looks like every other purpose built 80s office suite..... First we will buy a couple of the lovely huge houseplants conveniently on offer at Lidl this week. Once it's looking intriguing, we'll post the pix.


While you're waiting, take a trip across the river and visit the fabulous Kittiwake Trust Multilingual Library on the Upper Level, Eldon Garden. It is beautiful, fragrant, relaxing, peaceful and totally gorgeous.  There are books in 54 languages and we are making it a place where we can connect language teachers with students and students with teachers.....
Some of the sessions may be held in the library annexe, Verb, right next to Bravissimo. Verb is also used for meetings of Beyond Borders, Culture Connect and Crossings. Let us know if you're looking for a nice place in the city centre to hold meetings, language classes or workshops. We particularly encourage events involving languages, words, learning.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Sliding into Summer

There seem to be too many things on the brink of happening and we've kept putting off making a new post until there was something to announce.

But yes, there IS now a Borderline Books in Bradford. This is being run by Incommunities - Open Field. It opened on March 12... and we are hoping for an update from them on how things are going. The last we heard was 'slow but sure' which is always the best way to start.

Ashlyn and Mina are running this new BookSpace at City House, 23-27 Cheapside, Bradford BD1 4HR. Phone 01274 257788 or email for opening times.


In all probability the next new bookspace will be in Durham after which we have our eyes on Carlisle, York, Leeds, Manchester............ Please contact us if you are interested in running a BookSpace where you live or work.... it's a very simple principle:

Recipe for a BookSpace


1 or more human beings (size and shape immaterial)
1 space (your own or shared) – size: relative
1 table
1 rubber stamp saying:  
                                        free books – free minds
Liberal helping of enthusiasm
Two basic beliefs
1) That everyone has the right to enjoy reading a book
2) that books are not suitable for mashing.
Generous quantity of books

Take a book, place a rubber stamp on fly-leaf and/or title page. Put it in a crate / box / shelf / heap

 Repeat indefinitely

Contact local organizations supporting refugees and migrants, homeless people, survivors of  domestic violence and their children, victims of trafficking, former prisoners and others with limited  or no access to books and tell them free books are available for them.
Invite them to come along and choose the books they need.

Repeat indefinitely

For your very own office in a box, initial supply of 500 books and the benefits of experience, write to



Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Good Press

We had a really good write-up in The Journal - thanks Jemma Crew for that.
You can still read it here
or here!

How Tyneside charity is taking unwanted books and giving them new life

The Borderline Books project aims to encourage greater literacy and foster a love of reading and books

Amina Marix Evans at Borderline Books in Gateshead
Amina Marix Evans at Borderline Books in Gateshead

Imagine a hideaway containing thousands of free books just waiting to be picked up off the shelves and enjoyed.
A place filled to the rafters with words - hundreds of thousands of words crammed between each creased spine, filling each well thumbed page, words spilling off the shelves and out of boxes, stacked precariously in wheelbarrows and other similarly odd and out-of-place receptacles.
You might not expect such a literary treasure trove to be tucked away in a corner of a remote Team Valley trading estate. But that’s the surprising location of Borderline Books, a project which collects used and unwanted books and redistributes them to vulnerable and deprived communities in the North East.
One cold, clear winter morning, I met Amina Marix Evans, the woman behind the exciting scheme.
The idea for Borderline Books was born early in the morning of September 11, 2001, when Amina was living in the Netherlands.
She said: “I was a literary agent since 1980 – long before PDFs. So I was receiving parcels of books every day.
“The whole thing came about because I thought: there are all these organisations sending books to places like Africa, and meanwhile we have Africans living in the next street on a shoestring who would love to have some books for their kids.

Claire Marron at Borderline Books in Gateshead
Claire Marron at Borderline Books in Gateshead
“We set up in Gateshead in the summer of 2011. At the same time, a publisher I knew contacted me and said ‘We are clearing out our archives – there are about 200 boxes’. So we had this thing and then it got bigger and bigger. And now we have this wonderful space.”
A space appreciated by Sam Connor, 42, a support coordinator for Gateshead Women’s Refuge, which provides a safe place for women and children fleeing difficult situations such as domestic abuse.
She said: “We’ve been coming for years, and Amina always makes people very welcome. It is an absolutely great idea.
“I am a great one for thinking that knowledge is power. Lots of the women do not have any aspirations about their future, so just getting them back into reading a novel can do wonderful things. And it’s something they may not have done before, bearing in mind many of them have been in abusive relationships without much say as to what they do. It is a way of encouraging them to do something for themselves.
“It brings all kinds of benefits. Last year the women were going through a phase where they were enjoying cooking so they went to get some cookery books. Books are quite expensive to buy – especially reference books. Because of this they were able to continue cooking.”
As the name might suggest, Borderline Books thrives on being a truly inclusive service, crossing boundaries of race, colour, age, wealth and health throughout the North East.
The project, which is run by the Kittiwake trust and has a sister project in the Netherlands, donated a record total of 7,106 books in 2014. It shows no sign of slowing down, with funding from places including MG NorthEast, the Hospital of God at Greatham, the Jill Franklin Trust and Gateshead Council.
Visitors donated a further £600 to the cause, and all the initial furnishings were either recycled, freecycled or donated – they only set-up purchases being rubbish bins and a washing-up bowl. From this humble beginning the idea has blossomed, and as it stands in early 2015, Amina and her team of volunteers have supplied books to more than 70 organisations, ranging from autism support groups to prisons to schools.

Amina Marix Evans at Borderline Books in Gateshead
Amina Marix Evans at Borderline Books in Gateshead
These come from many sources: direct from publishers, from individuals keen to empty their shelves – and companies such as Nexus who have promised to give books left behind on public transport that have not been claimed.
Amina said: “In spite of the large number of books we gave away in 2014, we nearly always receive more than we give away. We really need to drive home the fact that local organisations supporting marginalised and vulnerable people can come to us and get books totally free of charge.
“There was a woman in Middlesborough who set up a big literacy library last year. There were families with no books at home and she said: ‘Why don’t you join the library?’ and they said ‘But if the baby or the dog mess up the books we are going to have to pay and we cannot afford it’. So they were scared of joining – which is awful.”
“I encourage organisations to come once by themselves and see that I am not kidding, and then come again with a group of people.”
David Palmer, 39, is the office manager for SHAID, a Single Homeless Action Initiative in Durham which provides a peer-support group for men in and around Stanley. He has brought groups to visit the BookSpace several times.
He said: “A lot of our group members have been doing art work. The service has been a great resource on how to paint and draw. We now have a whole wall of canvases made by the men, and some of that has been directly inspired by the books.
“A lot of the people we see are very isolated and don’t have much money. We don’t have many book stores in the Stanley area and many people don’t have the confidence to travel to Newcastle alone. So we go as a group – last year we went four times.”
Danny, 35, first attended a SHAID meeting in 2012. He now volunteers for the organisation, and is on job seekers allowance while he looks for employment. Just one of the men who has directly benefited from the service, Danny has been making use of the selection of art books to improve his painting skills.
He said: “SHAID has really helped me, and now I am volunteering in the office. I might end up doing an admin course, so if I can get books on that it would really help us.”

Borderline Books in Gateshead
Borderline Books in Gateshead
He added: ‘I’m also interested in fiction and autobiographies, but it can be very difficult to find certain books, I’m hoping to visit later this year and I think I will be spoilt for choice when I do.”
While the overwhelming majority of the organisations benefiting from the project are North East-based, there are exceptions. Limerick Prison, in Ireland, for example, was sent a shipment of books after Amina heard that its library had very few books for women.
The organisation also delivered a collection of large-print books to the Joseph Rowntree retirement village in Scarborough, as well as 700 books to Bradford, where a new BookSpace will be opening in March. It’s hoped that this branching out will lead to more BookSpaces being set up – Amina has dreams for cities like Leeds and Manchester to host their own.
And outside of the UK the project has also made its mark. As part of Gaza Toy Drive, over 200 books are in the process of being sent to children and students in Gaza, and in 2013 300 books were donated to children in a German village.
When it comes to the future, it’s clear that Amina is brimming over with ideas, much like her shelves filled to bursting with books.
There are plans to continue holding Wordplay sessions, creative explorations of language and games to encourage young people who do not enjoy reading to leap that barrier and discover the joy of words. (“In my opinion there should be a lot of laughter attached to word-play”).
A multi-lingual library of 40+ languages is due to open in the next few weeks in Newcastle city centre, where the hope is that volunteers from different communities will take care of the shelves of books in their own language.
She also wants to visit some women’s refuges in the area, to “make them feel better about themselves” through something akin to ‘pampering’, though Amina is loathe to use the word, with all its connotations of idle luxury. (“These are the people who need it most, and they aren’t going to pay a penny for it”, she says, almost defiantly.”)
But realistically, Amina is just one person, and her dreams can’t simply be imagined into reality.
There’s much practical groundwork to cover: paperwork and funding applications, the sorting and stamping of books, and searching for new premises and volunteers.
“While we welcome book donations, they tend to come automatically, while letting organisations know we exist and there really isn’t a ‘catch’ to it, requires a lot of outreach.”
Motivated by the belief that books can transform lives - “free books, free minds” - Amina is determined to ensure that nobody, whatever their background, feels that reading is off-limit: “We are interested in working with Probation Services to have new BookSpaces run by people leaving prison - as Borderline Books offers experience that could prepare people for working in a shop, library, warehouse or office - perhaps combining it with literacy classes, writing groups or other projects.”
For more information please visit

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Records, scores and new beginings

photo - A Tower of Used Books - Jorge Royan, 2008

Here we are in 2015 and I didn't even get here in time to say Happy New Year.....
2014 was a record year for us - we gave away a total of 7,106 books, which is wonderful as it shows that we are needed and more people are starting to see the value in giving away free books.

One of the big pieces of news at the end of the year was that we delivered 700 books to Incommunities - Open Field, who will open a Bradford branch of Borderline Books in March. We are hoping that this could be the start of the spread of Borderline Books to Leeds, Manchester, York, Carlisle.... wherever there are people who are homeless, women's refuges, hostels for young people, people returning to the community from prison....... which is basically any town large enough for Boots or McDonalds........  The idea is very simple and it can be carried out in many different ways to support whoever is running and using the project. Please contact us if you need more information. books [at]

This year we are taking on a number of new volunteers to help with outreach, office management and generally keeping things going so that some of us are able to go out and meet people and see how the books are being used in various places.

We had a visit in January by a group from Carr Hill Primary School who had taken our Gingerbread House to school before Christmas. They collected a HUGE amount of books for us - books they had grown out of and books the staff and parents had donated - totally wonderful. They had a good time choosing some new books for themselves and a friend or parent. Carr Hill are planning to bring more children down to use in the next few weeks.

New Contacts this year include Riverside Community Health Project, who are proposing to provide plenty of free books to their service users (could we not just call them humans, visitors, friends?), Making Winter Warmer, who took lots of warm clothes, toiletries and other items people had donated to us to be passed on, and Gateshead Evolve, who have fantastic plans for supporting people in recovery. We are very much looking forward to working closely with them in the near future.

It's really important for us to keep making new contacts with organisations supporting vulnerable and marginalised groups in need of books.  If we don't keep up with the tsunami of books donated to us, then the whole thing is pointless.

 As for Kindles etc.... the number of people who tell us they bought an e-reader two or three years ago, or were given one as a present, but they just don't use them any more is amazing :-)  [snigger!]