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How your old books can change a life in 2020

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In the tumultuous times we find ourselves in, it’s daunting to imagine the strain our crisis support services are under.

But CEO of Lifeline Canberra Carrie Leeson knows exactly how deeply that strain is felt.

“Our safety calls—relating to child safety, domestic violence and suicide—have increased by 400% in some months and weeks this year,” says Carrie.

“And calls relating to isolation, addiction, family issues, relationship breakdown and mental health have all increased. It’s very rare that year-on-year we see an increase in calls across the board. It’s very concerning and very heavy.”

But there is a lighter aspect to Lifeline’s current offerings—one where your old books can be turned into support for Canberrans in need.

The annual Lifeline Canberra Book Fair is always a high-point for Canberra’s bibliophiles, where donated titles are browsed and bought by thousands of people across one big weekend. However, due to obvious reasons, it wasn’t able to go ahead in 2020.

So Carrie and her team pivoted.

“The Book Fair has been a fundamental part of our sustainability, so it really became a question of ‘how can we circulate these books out in the community’?” says Carrie.

The answer came in the form of a storefront in Fyshwick Markets’ Niche Markets.

“We pivoted out into a [retail] model, and it was simply a matter of finding a location that fitted with our values and community focus, and that was the Fyshwick Markets,” says Carrie. “The owners were so welcoming and supportive of us being there.”

CEO of Lifeline Canberra Carrie Leeson.

Open the same days as the markets—Thursdays to Sundays—Lifeline Canberra’s Book Lovers Lane is a way for fans of the Book Fair to get their fix, with stock rotated weekly to make sure there are fresh offerings every single weekend.

“We re-stock every afternoon when we are open and we do a massive restock Tuesdays Wednesdays so we’re never leaving any tired stock on the shelves,” says Carrie, adding that any stock that fails to sell is sent on to other charities.

“It’s a wonderful way for us to be out in the community and seeing the positive impact that Lifeline has.”

After all, as Carrie says, “a handful of books will sell for around $26, which is the cost of answering one life-changing phone call…”

Credit: Ashley St George.

Carrie extends a heartfelt thank you to those answering the phones at Lifeline Canberra’s Crisis Support Centre, who she says have supported some of Canberra’s most vulnerable people through smoke, bushfire storm and now COVID.

She also says Book Lovers Lane is an accessible way for Canberrans to get to know Lifeline volunteers and break down any preconceived notions they might have about its services.

“A lot of people might not feel it’s appropriate for them to call [the Support Line], that their situation isn’t bad enough, so another thing the book store achieves is that people get a sense of ‘well if I was to call, I’d have someone like you on the other end’ and they’re more likely to reach out.”

Have clean, resellable books you’d like to donate? See lifelinecanberra.org.au/bookfair/donating-books

Need someone to talk to? Call Lifeline on 13 14 11


What: Lifeline’s Book Lovers Lane
Where: Inside Fyshwick Markets’ Niche Markets
When: Thursday 10 am–4 pm, Friday 10 am–4 pm, Saturday 9 am–4 pm and Sunday 9 am–4 pm
Website: fyshwickmarkets.com.au/book-lovers-lane

Feature image: Ashley St George

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