Tuuu Libreria: My Favorite Madrid Bookstore, by Valerie Kramer

by Patty Ryan posted on 27 January 2015

Tuuu Librería Foto !Conveniently located on Calle Covarrubias 38, right near the Alonso Martínez metro stop, this very original bookstore was founded in September 2012 as “Librería Libre.” The idea was that all the books would be totally “libre” or free! Yup, you could take away as many as you could carry, no strings attached, and I did! I read an article about it that very month and, as I am an old-fashioned book lover (no e-books for me), I ran right on over there to check it out! They explained that the books were indeed free but that they needed around 350 members (the membership cost 12 Euros for the whole year or no more than the price of a book or two) to cover expenses, so I joined right then and there. They have a small but rapidly rotating section in English (reading in Spanish is still “work” for me). I never leave empty handed, although my new rule (really it was imposed by my husband due to space limits) is that I must donate at least as many books as I take. Well, what happened?

They, unfortunately, did not get enough members that first trial year. Was it the crisis? Is this indicative of Spanish culture? I am no sociologist, so I can only speculate on the reasons… Indeed, the bookstore was modelled after a free bookstore in Baltimore, USA (check it out at http://www.bookthing.org) which seems to get by with the original “totally free” formula. At any rate, luckily for me, and maybe for you too, they did not shut down but rather they decided to change the name and tweak the strategy: now it is called “Tu Librería” and you may still join for 12 euros per annum or leave whatever donation you’d like each time you visit (this is required but you decide how much to donate each time to take a book, or as many books as you can carry). When you check out, the volunteer will stamp each book in order to identify it as a book from Tu Librería that cannot be bought or sold.

As for other practical stuff, the bookstore is open every day, including Sundays and holidays,from 12 to 8pm and takes donations of all types of books (except textbooks) in all languages until 6pm daily. You can also donate your time as a volunteer. Only one worker is on staff (you can see on the web that she earns €1,575 per month including her Social Security payments and, I assure you, she is worth every Euro Penny!). All of the other workers helping out there are volunteers. I am happy to say, and I was a financial analyst for 20 years, that the accounts of every month are now posted on the web http://www.yooou.org for example, in September 2014, total revenues were €3,512 and total expenses were €2,457, so it’s working!

Tuuu Librería Foto 2

Other than the book store on Calle Covarrubias 38, the www.you.org has a lot of other interesting projects (all related to reading and/or education) which you can find out about (in Spanish) on their website(s) including: setting up libraries and stocking them with books (overflow from Tu Librería) in Spain and Latam, running tutoring programs, awarding 25 scholarships to deserving students from low-income backgrounds in Bolivia every year, and more! Donating my old books never felt so wonderful and my tidy hubby is really happy about that (actually he “forced me” to donate four boxes of books this summer; It was difficult, but I didn’t really mind giving them to Tu Librería since I know others will enjoy them and now I have loads of room to pick up new ones! I hope to see you at Tu Librería! There really is something for every book lover: besides the art book section and English section, there are sections on all different topics in Spanish, loads of children’s books (some in English and other languages), and also DVDs (at a cost of €1 each).

Every time I am in the area I stop in. I have gone there with several INC pals and, I assure you, they left with a pile of books each time. I even took my Artist mom from Chicago there during her recent visit and she ended up having to rearrange her packing to fit in a huge heavy hardback book on Spanish ceramics that she was thrilled with! Anyway, so much for my first contribution to the INC blog! I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to hearing what you think of Tu Libreria! Valerie Kramer: valeriana370@yahoo.es. Telephone for Tuuu Libreria:+34 91 282 1001