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My name is James and I just want to sketch out a typical day as a part of the Volunteer Book Project in St Fagans.

We’re a small group, one of many in the museum, that has been running for over a year. Our group was set up to raise funds for St Fagans’ grounds by selling second hand books.

Usually, we go into the museum once a week. Communication with one another is straightforward, using a Whatsapp group. Someone from the group will decide a day to go in, the rest of us will say yay or nay. It’s very flexible. More often or not, there are a bunch of us in at any time and over the past year have developed a good working bond and friendship with one another.

We have two locations where we sell our books in the museum, Y Gegin, the main cafe, and Gweithdy, the crafts’ cafe and we’re very excited, too, because we’ve just found out that a space in the Buttery Cafe, which will be opening soon, is going to be available to us to sell books. Also, every cafe has its own particular subject, so if you are in the museum, try and visit them all if you can.

Our job is to keep the supply of good quality books for sale on display. Our generous donations from visitors keep the volume of turn over very fast, which has brought in a high amount of collection money. So far we have raised £3,000 from the project and the money is set to be spent on arches with integral seating for the Rose Garden and also to plant some extra trees nearby.

After picking up the stacks of books from the reception area, and checking what gaps there are to fill in the cafe, we make our way over to our little store room (in Tŷ Gwyrdd), walking and chatting as we pass along the path under the trees. You’ll hear the rumbling of our crate a long way off.

Sorting through the books is always interesting because we receive quite a diverse range of subjects, from popular fiction to highly specialist topics. Whatever we pick up, we price them, discuss them, keeping a close eye on what is selling well and what isn’t. The whole process is quite stimulating. We’re pretty much in charge of the whole running of the books project. It’s nice that St Fagans shows that level of trust in its volunteers.

Once we have gathered enough books to fill the empty spaces in the shelves, we rumble on over to the cafes to get the books out on display. We like to keep a check on how well books sell. For instance, we will photograph the shelves before and after a shift and also make a little pencilled note of the month the book goes on display. This information helps us to tailor our selections as much as possible to the tastes of the many varied people who visit St Fagans. Also, a few of our members have started selling some of our rarer books on eBay, so that we can maximize the funds we collect to be spent on adding more beautiful features to the museum.

A typical day lasts around three hours. At the end we all sign out at the reception desk with a satisfying feeling that there are a fresh load of low-priced and good quality books out for sale. It’s a rewarding role and we always feel appreciated by the museum for our work. There is a sense of belonging here and it’s really opened my eyes to new things.

David Zilkha

Volunteer Co-ordinator

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