Aileen’s Norwegian Bookselling Exchange

In September 2022, Aileen took part in the RISE Bookselling: Booksellers Exchange Programme, as she headed off to Norway to spend three days working in one of their bookshops: Norli Universitetsgata.

Here’s how she got on…

Norli Universitetsgata is set over two floors and filled to the brim with an incredibly wide-range of books. They house a larger English fiction section than the entire space of Mostly Books, and have passionate and knowledgeable booksellers.

During my time working at Norli, I did lots of tidying, sorting and rearranging! It was a very big shop with a huge number of books and it was satisfying being able to help make it look as neat and inviting as possible – I think the Norli booksellers are as busy as we are and it’s a job that they don’t always have time to do. Doing this also meant that I was immersed in books across all languages, and it was really interesting to see which books have been translated and whether the cover design is the same in both markets or completely different.  

I also helped with packing book orders in their very busy online department, and locating books for their click and collect service – not so easy when the titles are Norwegian! I was able to recommend some of my favourite titles to their English language buyer, and have some interesting discussions with the booksellers about our experiences both in the UK and Norway. They thought the Mostly Books Meets podcast sounded great!

I have returned with a greater appreciation for our incredibly supportive and active Booksellers Association, which allows us to meet and share ideas with each other on such a regular basis, and a real pride that independent bookshops in the UK are thriving in a bookselling market which includes retailers who are able to heavily discount titles – Norway has laws in place which don’t permit this.

Most of all, I realised just how lucky I am to work in such a vibrant shop as Mostly Books – I missed it very much while I was away!

I took the opportunity to extend my stay in Norway, and explored Oslo and Bergen. The highlight was my journey on the Bergensbanen – the railway that links Oslo and Bergen. 7 hours of stunning scenery that flew by (with a good audiobook to keep me company, of course!) – I would love to see it in every season.

One of the lovely booksellers at Norli recommended that I visit Deichman Bjørvika, Oslo’s public library, before my return home, so I did! It was truly wonderful – it felt like everything a library could, and should, be. A space for working, for meeting friends, for sheltering from the outside world, for bringing your children to play and explore, and so much more. It felt loved and full of life and I was really inspired.