‘The Book Lady’ can’t wait for new chapter

Birmingham native, Mary O’Donoghue moved to Ireland fifteen years ago before opening her popular bookshop in Boyle in September 2012. She has since become known far and wide as ‘The Book Lady’ and claims her shop is the smallest of its kind in Ireland.

“I opened a number of years ago out of desperation really,” she told the Roscommon People this week.

“I was struggling to find work at the time and I really wanted to do something I was passionate about. I needed somewhere to go and something to do”.

Mary said she wanted to set a good example for her son, Cory (21), at the time and knew she was capable of running a bookstore.

“It worked out better than I ever could have thought and most importantly it made my son proud when I became known as The Book Lady around Boyle,” she said.

The bookstore proved a lifeline for Mary, who had felt the effects of rural isolation after her move from the UK.

“It gave me a life! I suddenly had people to talk to every day and something to keep me occupied. I’ve been to places like Spain and parts of the UK and people will say ‘You’re the book lady!’ It became a source of pride,” she added.

The Book Lady has been closed to the general public throughout the Covid-19 ‘lockdowns’, however, and Mary believes it’s a big loss to the community.

“I can’t prearrange pick-ups and collections and because there is no ‘click and collect’ here and most of the business I did was face to face. But I can still keep books aside for people if they contact The Book Lady bookshop.

“This is the toughest year I’ve ever had. It’s just such a shame because reading has been proven thousands of times over to be good for mental health,” she said.

Mary says the age-old pastime offers a means of escape which is healthier than TV, Netflix, or the Internet, and that it should be considered in the same bracket as some health and wellbeing businesses.

“If acupuncturists and massage therapists can reopen then I think bookstores such as mine should be allowed to reopen too. But I don’t think we’ll reopen until everyone else does at this point.

“I just think my bookshop would be one of the safest places to be. There’s only room in there for one person at a time really so when a customer does call I can step outside. The door and windows are open all the time so it’s like being in the open air anyway. I also have hand sanitiser at the door and the shop is kept very clean at all times. It’s quiet enough during the day anyway so I would definitely consider it very safe,” she said.

Despite her frustration with the ongoing closure, Mary doesn’t blame the authorities for their cautious approach to reopening.

“It’s because of the EU vaccine rollout,” she says. “Realistically, if they were to open everything up now without vaccinating those most at-risk then we would be back to where we were before Christmas. I think it will be June by the time we are ready to reopen, that’s what everyone seems to be expecting anyway.

“I can’t wait to welcome customers back again, and when I do reopen there will be special offers and great value across the shelves for the first few weeks!”