The Global Educational Trust – which started as a way to recycle books stored in the founders’ attics - now has 30 shops around the country and has picked the former Virgin Media store at number 9 Fargate next to Chapel Walk, as its next destination to open in.
But it needs volunteers to help run the store, where people can take up to three books every day for free or by making a donation.
"A lot of people can’t afford to go to Waterstones and buy a load of books and with libraries closing fewer people have access to real literature”, said Junaid Rahim, one of the trust’s trustees who is setting up the Fargate shop and spoke to the Telegraph while shopping for shelves at the B&Q on Queens Road.
"When people visit our outlets it is just like walking into a bookshop, we deck it out like a Waterstones. All the books are very high quality.
"We find that we get as many books donated as are taken out so it kind of looks after itself.”
Any donations that are made ‘help keep the lights on’, he added but are not a requirement.
He added: "The shops become like a social hub.
"There are people who wouldn’t go into a library because they wouldn’t feel comfortable, we don’t ask people to be quiet or anything like that, they can sit and read.”The trust hopes its work will help improve literacy, and Junaid said one in six children was leaving school functionally illiterate.
Mental wellbeing was also a benefit of giving people free access to books and for volunteers working with books.
Junaid, who was born and bred in Sheffield, said the store could also help attract more footfall to Fargate, which has several empty units currently following various store closures and the Covid-19 pandemic.
He added: “I was shocked when I came to Fargate to see what it is like now. If we can help bring people back on to Fargate too all the better.”
The store needs about ten volunteers to run the Sheffield shop, and once open it can also offer audio books, CDs, DVDs and jigsaws. It is aiming to open in the next fortnight.
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