Kernaghan Books, School Lane, Liverpool, L1 3BX – Visit Now
Kernaghan Books is not a new business – it downsized from a larger premises in Southport to take up residence in Liverpool’s city centre. Though this might seem like a diminishment, it has meant the consolidation of the collection and, more significantly, a place in and under the wing of the Bluecoat.
It’s the sort of move that can safeguard an independent bookshop’s survival – Kernaghans has become part of a hub that provides a café, gallery and retail spaces so that they don’t have to. The bookshop will attract readers in search of a creative destination, as well as passersby, whilst managing to retain its independent feel. Which is, in this case, a closely-shelved, archive kind of atmosphere, with low ceilings and dusky corners. There are revolving stacks packed with earnestly-titled hardbacks, rather beautifully arranged corner shelves and a wicker eel trap hanging from the back wall – ask owner Bryan Kernaghan for the story behind that one.
Bryan is something of an expert advice celebrity; his extensive knowledge saw him feature in The History Channel’s “Pawn Stars UK”. He was eager to emphasise that Kernaghans can source book requests not included in its current stock, a boon for those with something specific in mind. Equally the bookshop has over 3,000 of its titles available to buy online, if you need to go away and have a think – or are simply drilled to buy at a distance. But it is worth popping in to sift through its collection of antiquated photos, for instance (the names of people featured are carefully inscribed on the back, where they’re known). Details like these, along with Kernaghans symbiotic relationship with the Bluecoat, are good signs for its survival. It seems that, although bookshops are struggling with more than the usual number of challenges facing any small business, the key is in keeping things personal.