Raglan’s very-own second-hand book shop, is in fact a whole lot more than simply a collection of pre-loved books of all shapes and sizes; a little community of book worms also gather round it weekly, lending their time and passion for the written word, to help keep the shop ticking over.

Owner, Jo Catlin wouldn’t be without her team of volunteers, some regular helpers, others relievers, who give their time to man the shop, freeing Jo to explore the world beyond Raglan gathering books, as she says, “I feel proud to have in my shop.”

She sets very high standards about the choices she makes, not only in terms of their content but also in the ‘reasonableness’ of the price she sells the books for.

“New Zealand books are far too overpriced. I want to encourage people to buy books so I sell them at prices they can afford. In a town like Raglan, that’s incredibly important.”

Jo opened the shop nearly 18 months ago but her connection with second-hand books extends back many years through her time running the recycling shop at Xtreme Waste. Most of her books are priced around $8 to $10, but some precious NZ first editions are marked above this, given their value. Selling books that have already had their pages turned is one of Jo’s ways of supporting the concepts of recycling and sustainability she aspires to live by.

Some books find their own way to her shop, brought in by locals who want to share the pleasure they had from reading them with others in this community.

“That’s the part of having this shop which is lovely. I know someone is going to gain enjoyment from reading the book, at a price they can afford and while some books stay a while on the shelf, others leave almost as soon as they arrive.”

Her bookshop is a popular destination for teachers as well and she finds it heartening to see so many bought as gifts by parents to give to young ones.

“I love reading. I always have more than one on the go at a time, like most of the ladies who come in and help out.”

On one of the walls is a large map of the world and when visitors from far-flung places pop in to brows Jo asks them to pinpoint where they are from. It’s a little gesture that adds a sense of community to the place.

“Something that is really nice is when I receive postcards from all over the world from these travelling souls. They’re up here on the wall as well.”

Given its cosy size, Jo has managed to fit a large array of books inside its walls. Pride of place, is left for the comfy chair, sat on often by customers selecting their favourite read. There is certainly a feel like you’re in a sitting room or in someone’s well-loved private library. She is fussy about the books she chooses for the shop, some of which are very old but still in great condition.

“I’m happy to suggest good reads to people who want to get their head in a book but don’t know what to choose. There is bound to be something here they will enjoy and I really like it when I get feed-back from customers once they have read a book.”

A love of reading opens up the world and Jo is certainly doing her bit to make that world possible for everyone in Raglan.

Sue Russell