A Day in the Life: Alison Tweed, Chief Executive of Book Aid International

A Day in the Life: Alison Tweed, Chief Executive of Book Aid International

Welcome to our ‘A Day in the Life’ blog series, where we’ll be interviewing members of the LBF team, industry professionals, and special guests attending our next LBF event.

Our latest interview is with Alison Tweed, Chief Executive of Book Aid International. Alison leads the charity, and works closely with the Board of Trustees. Since joining the charity, Alison has grown its book provision programme, which now sends over one million books a year to over 22 countries worldwide.

We spoke to Alison about early morning dog walks, what she enjoys most about her job, and what she’s looking forward to at LBF24…

What’s the first thing you do after your alarm has gone off in the morning?

I am a very early riser, so I stagger around the house for a bit getting ready for the day, then my two large Airedale Terriers take me for an adventure-packed walk in the dark around the streets of the West Berkshire village where I live.

Tea or coffee?

Both: tea followed very quickly by very strong coffee, though I recently discovered Tangawizi tea on my travels. Tangawizi is Swahili for ginger and it’s delicious and refreshing.

What does a typical day look like for you?

It depends where I am. If I’m in the UK it’s the usual round of meetings, Teams calls, working on projects, liaising with the trustees, talking to publishers, representing the charity at events and generally getting out and about. If I’m travelling, which is mainly in Africa, it’s meeting our library and NGO partners, visiting community libraries, schools, prisons, hospitals and seeing how people are using and enjoying the books we send.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I absolutely love my job and consider myself very privileged to be leading this fantastic charity, and I am lucky to have a very strong and capable team. I love the range of people I meet: from our Patron Her Majesty the Queen to our amazing supporters and all our partners in Africa and around the world. But most of all I love walking into our warehouse in Camberwell which can store up to a quarter of a million books at any one time and knowing that all these books will be going somewhere where they can make a real difference to people’s lives.

If you weren’t working in the charity sector, what would be your alternative career?

I’ve always loved history, but I seem to be going further and further back in time in my interest and am about to do a ‘for fun ‘course on Ice Age Europe. So, I guess archaeology would have been a good call for me, though on reflection I do hate digging. Maybe just reading about it in a comfy armchair is enough.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to begin a career in your industry?

Attitude and outlook will get you a long way in whatever you do: be enthusiastic, be willing, put forward your ideas and views, go the extra mile, enjoy what you do, and people will notice you and give you opportunities you’d never dreamed of.

If you could only recommend one book, film, and TV show to someone, what would it be?

The book that has made the strongest impression on me in the last year is ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara: a tough but compelling read, and with extraordinary characterisation. In terms of film/TV I am a huge fan of Netflix’s ‘The Last Kingdom’: a brilliant adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s books on the rise of the Saxon House of Wessex. I confess I’ve watched it start to finish 4 times and it’s my go-to place for pure escapism.

What are you looking forward to the most at LBF24?

I am very excited about this year’s LBF as we are joint Charity of the Year with the National Literacy Trust. There will be lots of opportunities to catch up with our publisher supporters and industry friends and make contact with new publishers, as well as having all those random conversations with interesting people. I can’t wait!

See Alison and the Book Aid International team at the following LBF24 sessions:

Tuesday 12 March, 10:45am, Focus Theatre – Celebrating 70 Years of Sharing the Power of Books

Wednesday 13 March, 2:15pm, Sustainability Hub – Generation Reader: The Social Impact of Donated Books

Buy tickets to LBF24 here.

Stay tuned for our next interview, coming soon…

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