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Livraria Lello concludes the world’s first Book Drive-Thru with over ten thousand books

Livraria Lello took on complete responsibility for the daily gifting of thousands of books in what represented a major financial commitment

Books are truly goods of the most basic need. Even, perhaps especially, in times of pandemics. Thus did the Minister of Culture declare and then experience at the Livraria Lello when inaugurating on 1st April that which we believe to be the very first Book Drive Thru on the planet, opened that day and accompanying the period in which Portugal was under a State of Emergency. This also reflected in the over 10,000 books that from Monday to Friday, between 10am and 12pm, made their way along the street of Livraria Lello and there, in conditions of absolute safety and hygiene, received free copies of works published by Livraria Lello in a campaign that primarily sought to return to the community the comfort, trust and company that books have always given and especially so in difficult and never before experienced times such as these.

Livraria Lello took on complete responsibility for the daily gifting of thousands of books in what represented a major financial commitment corresponding to the social responsibility that we know and like to have towards our readers, their friends and inhabitants of our city and region, one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. We are a bookstore that has built its success on international and national readers, thus arriving from all over the country and the world. We do not forget that it is they that endow purpose on us as a Bookstore and as Monument. As a Bookstore that is also a Monument. Thus, having made many editions available in the PDF format, accessible from anywhere on the planet, we did not wish to miss out on graciously sharing the book with those who live closest to us, beyond this virtual dimension, as a highly unique physical object of daily luxury.

This represented a commitment in financial terms, labour and organisation that was inherently necessary to the sharing of in excess of 10,000 books and in their reading but that was, furthermore, broadly compensated for by the letters, notes and postcards of thanks sent in by our readers [annexed are some pictures and excerpts from these missives]. Thus, this constituted an action with an enormously positive impact on the community we belong to, which served to comfort and certainly foster new readers that discovered new stories, new authors, who travelled without having to leave the house. Relationships between the bookstore, books and authors that have known how to adapt to the “great confinement” that now takes on a new meaning in the “long deconfinement” that is shaping our lives.

Because reading, being read, publishing, giving voice to authors, whether consecrated by the centuries or emerging in search of their first publication (as happening with the competition that Livraria Lello launched for this period of isolation, the “Quarantine Tales” Prize, which has already received over six dozen entries and that shall award six new authors with a collective monetary sum of €6,000 and a publishing contract) is a genuine act of “Love in the Times of Cholera” by Livraria Lello and its team to its readers and its city that are its world.

In this phase, all of Portugal is progressively reopening with all of the care necessary and a maximum of hope, Livraria Lello is now striving to, with every health and safety measure possible, prepare its monumental building, organising its book collection, training its staff and programming its activities to provide to all of its friends and readers, whether from down the street or the other side of the world, with the very best magic that man has invented and to assist those who share this agenda to come out of themselves and thereby reencounter with all the rest of humanity: the experience of gifting books (whether to yourself or to others) so that still more books get read and we may continue to be deconfined and immortal even when very much confined and mortal.