A charity shop volunteer affectionally known as ‘the book lady’ says she is in her element when chatting and swapping reading tips with customers. Sharon Bursnall gives up at least a day a week to help run the book room in East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices’ (EACH) Cromer store.
As an avid reader herself, she describes it as a passion and says her time in the shop is “priceless”.
“Books have always been a massive part of my life and I used to work in library services, as well as being a school librarian and volunteering in the field of adult literacy,” she said.
“I’m a real bookworm and will read anything, especially if it’s recommended by a customer. I love it and that’s why I’m so passionate about volunteering for EACH.
“People may know that our shop is a former bank and there are lots of separate rooms, including our dedicated book room. I love being there and we’re very lucky to have the space we’ve got.
“It’s a dream and always very popular with customers – both our regulars and holidaymakers. I love getting into conversations with people and while I’ll happily recommend books to them, they also give me plenty of top tips. It’s a two-way thing.
“It’s good for the customers, good for me and hopefully good for EACH.”
Sharon, who lives in the town, has been volunteering since shops were allowed to reopen following lockdown. As well as helping customers and selling books in the shop, she spots high-value items and recommends that some are sold via eBay, or sent to EACH’s Retail Distribution Centre, in Thetford, to be sold via Amazon.
“The great thing about books is that there are so many hidden gems,” she said.
“I love it when something obscure turns out to be worth a lot of money. You never know what’s going to pique someone’s interests and that’s part of the fun.
“A recent example was when we received a first edition copy of The Snowman, by Raymond Briggs, and it sold on eBay for £50.50 It’s like Christmas every day here, because it’s full of surprises. People must think I’m mad to say that but I genuinely love it.”
Sharon worked in retail earlier in her life, before having her two daughters. She comes into the Tucker Street shop every Tuesday, although pops in throughout the week and is well-known and much-respected by staff and volunteers.
“Hopefully my enthusiasm shines through and I’m able to bring something to the table,” she said.
“However, I’d have to say that whatever I do bring, I get back in spades, because I get so much enjoyment and fulfilment from this. Jeff, my husband, is very much a charity shop widower!
“I love being part of the team and think it’s brilliant. What is there not to like? It’s priceless and, as a team, we’re so thankful to those who both donate and buy our books.
“People are very generous on both fronts and it’s brilliant.”
Cromer Shop Manager Roxanne Holman is very grateful for Sharon’s expertise.
“Sharon’s a wonderful lady and known locally as the book lady,” she said.
“She puts so much time into making the book room feel warm and welcoming and she’s absolutely crazy about books, so somewhat of an expert in the field.”
To find out more about joining Sharon and volunteering in Cromer, pop into the shop, email Roxanne via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01263 801998.
Meanwhile, the team are in desperate need of more book donations.
“By the end of March, we’ll start to see the tourist season start up again and I’d love to see our book room fully stocked ready for that,” added Roxanne.
“We desperately need more books and all donations will be gratefully received. We’re open Monday to Saturday from 9am until 5pm, and from 10am until 4pm on Sunday. Just pop in and see us – a friendly welcome is guaranteed.”